Artist Steve Lambert likes to say his medium is “trouble.” That’s a creative way of saying he’s less interested in pretty pictures than in artwork that challenges the audience. Or in the case of his latest, work that forces them to examine their own views.
The New York-based artist is currently an artist in residence at Birmingham’s Space One Eleven gallery. This weekend he brings his work called “Public Forum” to Birmingham’s Artwalk. Steve Lambert spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager about the piece.
The police are here to protect us — true or false? Mass transit only helps poor people — true or false? Slavery is over — true or false? Jesus is more important than football — true or false?
These are just a few of the questions that form the centerpiece of a striking exhibition — part art installation, part game show, part town-hall meeting — that’s coming to downtown arts nonprofit Space One Eleven (SOE) for Artwalk weekend (Sept. 5-6). PUBLIC FORUM, the brainchild of conceptual artist Steve Lambert, blends the boundaries between art and democracy.
by Michael Huebner on Al.com
Be careful if you cross paths with Steve Lambert. He might entice you into a meaningful conversation.
At the very least, the New York artist will have you scratching your head when he shows up with signage at Space One Eleven gallery during the 2014 Birmingham Artwalk (Sept. 5-6).
My work is on the cover of the August issue of Chronogram – a Hudson Valley, NY based art and culture magazine.
On The Cover: Steve Lambert
By Iana Robitaille
If there’s one thing Steve Lambert learned as an undercover security agent at Stanford University’s bookstore, it’s that anyone—a history professor, a freshman’s dad on Parents Weekend, an ex-felon—can try to steal a pen. After each incident, he would sit down with the offender and discuss the attempted theft often born of some psychological conflict, according to Lambert. The meetings tended to end constructively: “Maybe today can be a turning point,” he would suggest.
Lambert retired his badge years ago, but conversation remains at the core of his work. The artist/activist creates public pieces that ask viewers to consider their value systems as consumers. Advertising is a frequent subject. “I consider myself ‘media-agnostic,’” he says. “I use whatever material will work best for me.” For Lambert, this is signage; he critiques advertising using its own methods. Sand Ocean Sky—The Commons is one of a series of arrow signs Lambert fashioned and photographed around Los Angeles. The signs are witty—one reads “No Trespassing” outside of a gated home, another “You are Still Alive” beside a large cemetery—and consider how we perceive and value public space. Lambert also fights advertising with software—his web application Add-Art replaces online advertisements with art.
For Lambert, his work isn’t about feeding a message to his audience. It’s about discussion and exchange. “[In college] I would see art in galleries, stuff that looked fun to make, but not so fun to look at. It was great when I realized that art could be whatever I wanted it to be.” The desire to make art “fun” for both artist and audience has created works that require interactivity. Lambert’s piece Capitalism Works For Me! True/False is a giant traveling scoreboard, with two buttons inviting passersby to agree or disagree. It looks and feels like a game show: bright, colorful, competitive. But Lambert is more interested in stories than scores. He recalls one man who voted false in Times Square: “He was so frustrated with the broad inhumanity of economic inequality that all he could do was cry. For the piece to cause that kind of profound response felt like an incredible achievement far beyond what I ever expected.”
In 2008, Lambert collaborated with the Yes Men on The New York Times Special Edition, distributing 80,000 fake copies of only “best-case scenario” news across the country. “The point,” he says, “wasn’t to make all of those things a reality, but to enjoy walking toward them.” For Lambert, walking is talking. Lambert occasionally sets up a table with a hand-painted sign that promises, “I will talk with anyone about anything. Free!” The mobile table has proven popular; Lambert says discussions have run the gamut, from weather to Native American agricultural techniques. Whatever the subject, the artist wants to walk and talk with you.
Steve Lambert currently teaches in the New Media Program at SUNY Purchase and works from his studio in Beacon. Information on his work and upcoming exhibitions can be found on his site: Visitsteve.com.
video by Stephen Blauweiss
An interview Stephen Duncombe and I did about the Center for Artistic Activism was published on the site We Make Money Not Art yesterday.
Here’s an excerpt:
For example, we often hear political artists say things like “I’m interested in raising awareness about issues around immigration.” This statement is so vague it could also serve as a mission statement for a Nazi propaganda office. Consciousness raising is only useful as a means directed towards something larger. Not addressing a specific, distant goal is a strategic error. Unfortunately merely political content is often what passes for political art, while it has little political impact. If the artist were to be more ambitious and more specific, “I will create a more accepting culture around immigration through my art work” they’d probably be more successful because they’d have a clearer idea of what they were trying to do.
We Make Money Not Art Read the rest.
This is a short video about out work around democracy in Scotland last November. It gives an idea of what Stephen Duncombe as the School for Creative Activism. We do about 6-8 of these throughout the year and we’re also currently working on a book.
Midway through a workshop on creative activism the morning of November 22, a group of Pakistani visual artists visiting NYU got some surprising news: Jay-Z had heard they were in the States, and had requested that they perform with him in a music video, as backup singers.
Stephen Duncombe, the Gallatin associate professor who was leading the workshop with conceptual artist Steve Lambert, produced a blank sheet of paper. “You’ll all need to write down your shirt sizes,” he deadpanned, “so you can be fitted for costumes.”
Lambert squinted at a message on his cell phone as he rattled off some logistics. The shoot was to take place that afternoon. In Maryland. On a boat.
read the rest: For Pakistani Artists, an Exercise in Creative Activism.
Iowa Public Radio
I appeared live on the last segment of the “River to River” program.
Capitalism – Does it work for you? That’s the question on a 20-ft-long sign with flashing lights that’s come to Cedar Rapids. Viewers vote by pressing true or false. Steve Lambert, the artist behind the project Steve Lambert explains his inspiration and share some of the responses he gathered.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette
If you remember, I was on Jason Sims podcast, “Jason Sims Puts You In Your Place” a few months back and Jason and I decided to make it the first “2-parter.”
You can listen to Part 2 now and in this conversation we talk about:
- getting my wisdom teeth taken out in Tijuana.
- the non-glamorous side of traveling for work – from touring with bands to teaching with the Center for Artistic Activism
- seeking out meaningful experiences on the road at the expense of those very experiences
- Visiting Kenya
- The struggle of saying “no” to what sound like amazing opportunities
You can get it on iTunes or from the site, Jason Sims Puts You In Your Place.
Sculpture Magazine did a review of Capitalism Works For Me! True/False in their most recent issue. Read the PDF: SculptureMag-Steve Lambert.pdf