The WORLD WALL is the next logical step for my large-scale public art work. For the past ten years I have been working on a narrative mural called the “Great Wall of Los Angeles.” Comprising the little-known history of California’s ethnic people through the 1950s, it has grown segment by segment to a half mile length. With this work, a model production process emerged that parallels the visual content. By assessing the socio-political and cultural nature of the work, as well as the more usual aesthetic concerns, I face a series of problems to solve. Their solutions will ensure the success of the work, i.e., a true integration into its environment.
In the case of the “Great Wall,” an overriding social issue was the history of inter-racial struggle between adolescent youths who frequented the site. Multi-cultural youth teams assisting in the production of the work and focusing on the roots of racial conflicts were empowered to propose solutions both visually in wall imagery and in actuality through the establishment of interpersonal communications.
A few years ago many of us read Jonathon Schell’s Fate of the Earth, in which he said that we must imagine the eventuality of nuclear war before we can change our destiny. It occurred to me later that it was not imagining destruction that was so hard to us but rather imagining peace. One of the students on the WORLD WALL team said, “Is peace everyone sitting around watching TV?’ If we cannot imagine peace as an active concept, how can we ever hope for it to happen?
The WORLD WALL takes the successful principles developed and refined in the “Great Wall of Los Angeles” and applies them to international communication. This time I have worked with a global team of 45 students and artists to conceptualize “A Vision of the Future Without Fear.” “Great Wall” workshops and brainstorming techniques were employed to develop the proposed content. As a result of these workshops, I developed the concept of a portable mural composed of seven panels, 10′ x 30′ each, that would assemble into a 100-foot diameter circle. This system can be installed anywhere in the world and is viewed 360 degrees by an audience both standing in its center, as well as around its outer surface.
The WORLD WALL premiered in June 1990 in Joensuu, Finland at “A Meeting of the Worlds,” where Finnish artists joined the project and produced the first of a series of international panels which convey their own “Vision of the Future Without Fear.” Then it traveled to Moscow, USSR, where it was exhibited for one week in Gorky Park, and Alexi Begov, a native Russian artist, added another panel.
The WORLD WALL will travel to and be exhibited in many countries, along the way inspiring activist artists all over the world to play a visionary role in imagining a peaceful future for us all, their own “Vision of the Future Without Fear.” This project, therefore, offers artists the opportunity to actively inspire individuals with bold and imaginative works that describe a peaceful society in terms that are challenging and striking, and that are well-grounded in the possible. If we speak in a language that is comprehensible and believable people will listen.