Sydney Cooper

ART & SOCIAL PRACTICE

We the People: a groundbreaking social sculpture project

We the People revolutionizes the concept of self-portraiture for the visualization age. Our interactive, multi-platform (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_sculpture) project engages participants in the creation of dynamic, layered self-portraits. This creative process allows a single person or a whole community to draw maps representing experience, interests, values, and more. Portraits are personal and intuitive, recording each participant's taste, memory, peeves, hopes and stories in a rich visual matrix of interconnection. WTP differs from existing social media in its emphasis on the creative process and its embrace of diversity. We the People is an adaptable system with applications in fields as wide ranging as the arts, education, epidemiology, science, social services, democratic activism, and anywhere else participants choose to take it.

Phase I: a model of the platform, and a free-standing, compelling artwork. Our funding request together with matching funds we are raising from local sources is to complete Phase I. We estimate that this phase will take six to nine months and will result in 1) a captivating and collaborative artwork, 2) a funding and constituency-building tool, based on the direct input of communities most in need of cultural representation and 3) an alpha version of the first truly democratic map of the individual's relationship to neighborhoods, communities, government structures, and to each other—across demographics from a genuinely ground-up, unedited source: We the People.

 


We The People, Santa Fe

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We The People, Santa Fe

In 2011 We the People was produced at the AHA festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I set up a table and chairs with snacks, flowers and table cloths.

I used the portraits made on this day for a video of a community mingling, mixing and creating together - a kind of card game sleight of hand. Participants will receive their portraits back and a link to the video of which their art is a component.

 


We The People, Portland

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We The People, Portland

I took the "We the People" project to the Portland farmers market for the conference on art and social practice Open Engagement in 2011. I had to be fast on my feet and get straight to it- there wasn't really the space or leisure for drawing. I decided to take the position of someone familiar in this kind of atmosphere - like a political activist who might have you sign a petition. Instead I asked the question "If you were a fruit or a vegetable what would you be and why?" This was the simplest incarnation of the answer or series of answers to a question indicating identity - or at least a piece of it. I got some gorgeous and surprising answers and saw the biggest wettest tulips of my life, largest most earthy Morels, and astonishing flower arrangements by a brilliant Hmong family of women.

 


Sydney Cooper students at Constellation in San Francisco Tenderloin

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Constellation

A Self Portrait Project Presented by Brian Bixby and Sydney Cooper

October 17 - November 15, 2009

Constellation was a site-specific installation in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, one of 16 projects in Wonderland, curated by Lance Fung (curator of The Snow Show and SITE Santa Fe's 7th Biennial, Lucky #7).

This work was created with partner institutions and individuals in the Tenderloin.

"We have employed a simple format incorporating tracing paper, markers, and ideas and questions for participants to ponder as they chart their personal biographies creating their self-portraits. The final installation presented here is composed of these portraits. Lines and dots map some of the relationships and common themes between the diverse people living and working in the Tenderloin."

"We hope that this project will contribute to a continuing conversation amongst partner organizations and the community at large about the transformative power of art."

Constellation Partners
University of California Hastings College of Law
Youth With A Mission
Vietnamese Youth Development Center
North of Market / Tenderloin Community Benefit District
Road Dawgz