Week 8: Eric Perez

My hour of maintenance art was spent picking up cigarette butts from the “no-man’s land” bridge connecting the campus to the CTA.  UIC is a Tobacco-Free Campus meaning use of tobacco products is not allow on campus grounds.  The bridge to the Blue Line and the southern portion of the campus is City of Chicago property where UIC has no jurisdiction.  Two potted plants are placed on both ends of the bridge to serve as reminders that commuters were now crossing onto UIC property and tobacco use is strictly prohibited.  So it is not rare to see student smokers find respite from the campus-wide ban on this bridge.  The problem this causes is our greenery (currently not on exhibit this season) is littered profusely with cigarette butts.

For my art, I performed the maintenance of picking up the discarded cigarette butts.   My intention with this project was to dissuade those who saw my performance from carelessly discarding their cigarette butts in the small patch of earth I temporarily named “Perez Park.”  Like an open bar at a work function, no one wants to be the first to form the line.  Similarly, my intent was to rid the miniature “park” of cigarette trash so perhaps the next smoker that sees the cleanliness of the place might be dissuaded from being the first person to defile the art piece.

Additionally, my purpose was to be seen performing the art.  It is not a common occurrence to see someone outside of a uniform or an orange jumpsuit cleaning up public spaces.  I was approached by several students with questions about my performance.  The general assumption was that my performance was some sort of punishment, to which I gleefully replied it was actually an act of deterrence.  It is my belief that people generally are more influenced by seeing people that have not in some way been de-humanized (such as maintenance workers, the homeless, convicts, uniform wearers).  By seeing a fellow citizen policing an area of public, they may be more conscious and inspired to police their own actions instead of adding to the problem.  History has shown people are more inclined to help if they see others helping already.

While not everyone that saw my performance stopped to talk, I know they were watching these actions be performed.  Those few that I did have an opportunity to talk to were very supportive of the idea.  Performing the art was rewarding in the sense that I felt a great sense of fulfilling a needed service in making our space a better space.  There is a bit of a calming, therapeutic feeling in performing maintenance tasks for me.

Before:

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After:

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Perez Park Before:

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Perez Park After:

Artist In Residence

NYC Bagel – My interest in this location is that I am not a morning-person.  My intent is to insert myself into a location and be alongside with those service industry members who have to be up before everyone else in order to serve those people first thing in their morning.  It is inserting myself into a scenario that is unfamiliar and seeing what develops.

Pritzker Military Museum – This location is of interest because I have yet to visit it myself.  I am hoping to discover the kinds of people that visit this space.  Are they all veterans?  Were their family members veterans?  Are they simply patriots or history lovers?  The museum has exhibits to the controversial wars (Vietnam/Iraq).  How are these received?

Jesse Brown VA Hospital – Remembrance and veneration for veterans that came before me is very important to me.  Every time I visit this hospital or the Hines VA, I am witness to the level of neglect in care veterans receive once their service is done.  The VA is severely underfunded, understaffed, and the facilities would make any civilian run for the doors.  My intent here would be to possibly highlight these issues or just be a presence and perform the art of being a friendly face to those who have been forgotten by the majority of the country.

A Public Park – My intent in being an artist in residence here would be to observe my fellow Chicagoans.  Who are these people that are free to roam while the rest of us are at work or school?  What are the cogs of the machine that keep the city running?

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