Kendal Henry is an artist and curator who specializes in public art. He learns about each location he works in through his interactions with people, and incorporates a listening process to his approach that makes each one of his projects specific to the desires of the populations they represent. Henry has done a variety of site-responsive projects in the United States, Europe Russia and Asia. While in Tajikistan, he worked with a group of local artists to create public art inspired by the uses and availability of water in the area. Tajikistan is a water-rich nation, however water politics that involve neighboring countries have made accessibility to the resource scarce despite its abundance. Eleven water-inspired artworks were created, many of which commented on this disparity and on the restrictions placed on how water can be used and by whom. The artists contributed to the awareness of these issues by creating a range of projects at various locations throughout the capital city of Dushanbe. For example, an artist built a water bar where pedestrians could choose to taste imported bottled water and local Tajik water. When presented with the question of which water was better, many chose the imported water, even though all the water at the bar was local. In this case, the results of the project suggest that the evaluation of water quality is most often the result of successful marketing rather than any empirical difference. For another project, a steel water tower was constructed with a nozzle at its base to catch and store precipitation that would be available as a public water source. The structure promoted an alternative to government regulated water sources by the conversion of rain water and snow. Henry’s most recent project, Dirt City: Dream City, is a transitory art exhibition that took place this summer in The Quarters neighborhood of downtown, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The neighborhood is undergoing a multi-million dollar urban renewal project, and the exhibition addressed the changes occurring as the location goes through regeneration. In his typical style, Henry worked as a curator, artist and collaborator with ten artists to develop their projects through workshops, community collaboration and an in-depth analysis of the history of the area. This project exemplifies how public art can be used as a tool for economic development as an early strategy in changing the psychological landscape. Henry worked with individuals from the Edmonton Arts Council to get his introduction to the city and a way to meet local artists. One of the artists, Matt Prins, contributed a piece called 92.1 FM The Mouth Hole, a temporary but real radio station that was advertised on a billboard. The station held broadcast and streaming radio programming hosted by two imaginary characters named Chuck and Chun, also know as The Quarters Morning Zoo – The Voice of the Quarters. The broadcast consisted of a one-hour loop including interviews with non-English speaking members of the community, jingles from non-existent businesses, an ice cream truck playing the Entertainer, and various other transmissions to describe the misinterpretations that occur when the voices of under-represented communities get drowned out by the louder voices of the city of Edmonton. Henry is generous in using art as a vehicle to communicate with other people, to build ideas, and implement them through projects that ultimately change the physical and spiritual landscape as they increase creative, public, civic and economic investment.
Click here to see the un-edited footage of Kendal.
Images from water project in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Billboard and posters from 92.1 FM The Mouth Hole, by Matt Prins. Part of Dirt City, Dream City in Edmonton, Alberta