The artist Julia Weist is rethinking the role of public art and, with it, what the public offers artists. Although her stint as Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) for the for New York’s Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) began before lockdown shut down the city—and with it, many of the parks and squares where public art can be found—she had been working in isolation for months in the municipal archives, dredging up examples of artists whose work, even if little known, has helped shape the city’s cultural landscape through government-sponsored programmes.
Her resulting project is partly archival, partly participatory. Entitled Public Record, it represents the culmination of Weist’s year-long residency and consists of 11 individual photographic prints submitted to DORIS as official correspondence. Her compositions were created by overlaying archival items with retrieval slips, leaving only essential sentences visible. Once the photographs of the collages were complete, she transferred a print of each to the Commissioner of DORIS with a simple memo attached: “I’ve completed eleven artworks in a series called Public Record.” As of this week, the digitised artworks, themselves now embedded in the bureaucratic structure in which she was working, are available for free for anyone if they submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by following the instructions on the archives.nyc project page.