Public Art Startup Hopes Anti-War Monument Goes Viral

Emerging Collective aims to incubate immersive and politically charged artworks.

Guo Jian poses for a "#SURRENDER Selfie" in front of the US Marine Corps War Memorial.
Photo: @EmerginColl/Twitter.

A new arts group is looking to pair emerging and established artists from developed and developing countries to create public art with a political bent. Dubbed Emerging Collective, the organization aims to meld virtually all elements of contemporary arts organizations, from residencies and mentorship programs, to pop-up exhibitions, participatory social media campaigns, and immersive art experiences.

“We want to create that fear of missing out that millennials thrive on,” Emerging Collective founder Raj Udeshi told artnet News. “Both activist art and avant-garde art lose out when you follow the museum paradigm or the gallery paradigm.”

Drawing on viral precedents like Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room environments at David Zwirner and Random International’s Rain Room at the Museum of Modern Art, Udeshi hopes to incubate and produce art projects that have an enticing, experiential quality, and social media traction. He also mentions precedents ranging from Liberate Tate’s actions in London to internet-savvy protest, including the “hands up” meme that followed Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Guo Jian, Tiananmen Square Meat Installation (2014).<br />Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Guo Jian, Tiananmen Square Meat Installation (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist.

The test case for the Emerging Collective will be a project pairing the Chinese-born Australian artist Guo Jian (most recently in the news for being arrested and deported after making a scale model of Tiananmen Square out of ground meat to mark the 25th anniversary of the protests there) with Marcus Eriksen, a Los Angeles-based sculptor and veteran of the US Marine Corps. The artists, each of whom is a pacifist and served time in his native country’s military, will collaborate on a large-scale anti-war monument.

Dubbed, naturally, #SURRENDER, and slated to debut in Manhattan, the massive sculpture will be a riff on the US Marine Corps War Memorial outside Washington, DC. Instead of the historic Iwo Jima photo-op shot by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and cast in bronze by sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, Guo and Eriksen’s monument will replace the familiar soldiers with a pan-historical cast of dozens of military men, ranging from contemporary US and Taliban fighters to Viet Cong, Nazi, and Medieval soldiers—raising a large white flag.

Marcus Eriksen, <em>Angel in the Desert</em> (2007).<br />Photo: Courtesy the artist.

Marcus Eriksen, Angel in the Desert (2007).
Photo: Courtesy the artist.

The piece’s title doubles as a hashtag, encouraging viewers to post “#SURRENDER Selfies” on social media. Before this project can make good on its viral potential, though, Emerging Collective has launched a Kickstarter campaign, and Guo, Erikson, and Udeshi are hoping the public will surrender some cash to help build the sculpture.

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