“Hoyt’s Poho Posit … celebrates the community connectivity offered by the online forum and works to establish a role for artists in this emerging digital territory.”
My south Minneapolis neighborhood is full of active, civically engaged residents; an assemblage of attentive eyes and ears. Every day, via a 846-member online forum, people report and discuss a multitude of things that happen in and around the neighborhood: a string of garage break-ins, a lost turtle, gang graffiti, a formerly-missing tabby named “Fozner,” now found, the attempted abduction of a minor, free sheetrock and shelving units, gun shots echoing through dark alleys, group yoga instruction in a park, and a garage sale!
Because this is the community in which I live and work, the forum topics have fueled my curiosity and enticed me to participate in some way. I was lured to the specific locations mentioned in the posts because I wanted to “see” and experience where these events were happening. This survey has led me to create an ongoing series of hand-painted stop motion videos of specific events gleaned from the online forum.
Creating video-paintings and posting them on the online forum has become a way for me to internalize and process the information I gather online and at each physical location, as well as to participate in the community dialogue as a neighbor and artist. The video-paintings are a re-presentation of the reported events. They posit a visual sequence of accounts that exists somewhere between reported facts and fabrications. They add to the broader community dialogue by elevating everyday occurrences through beauty and a meditated response that, in turn, introduces a divergent vernacular.
Over the past decade, my work has evolved to take on the form of sound and/or sculptural installations and situations in which public participation is a key component. This project brings me back to my roots as a painter, while challenging me to incorporate new media and digital technology. I am captivated by the possibilities of merging a pre-industrial craft (painting) with networked digital technologies (coding). Introducing “slow media” into a hyper media world obliterates the fleeting nature of an online forum, and stretches the timeline for discussion and rumination.
This project has developed as an ongoing creative endeavor that will span several years. It is exhibited simultaneously in several interdependent formats: as a physical installation which incorporates an interactive map kiosk, as the website www.pohoposit.com, and as visible markers posted throughout the neighborhood at locations portrayed in the video-paintings.
There was a time when neighborhood news traveled from person to person by word of mouth. Neighbors shared points of pressing information by talking across backyard fences or dialing one another in the order designated by a carefully crafted telephone tree. News of a car break-in or the sighting of an unfamiliar face rippled down the streets from house to house slowly over the course of hours or, more likely, days. Now, in urban neighborhoods like Minneapolis’s Powderhorn Park where artist Mike Hoyt lives, safety-conscious, digitally savvy citizens share news instantaneously through e-democracy online discussion forums. Neighborhood anomalies are no longer subject to the spatial–temporal limitations of the spoken word but are immediately reported online: “Keep your eyes open: burglar spotted at 31st and Bloomington! Description: Male Caucasian—6 feet 2 inches.” “Someone took my garbage container from the alley behind my house.” “Our home was vandalized this evening shortly before 8:00.” One neighbor’s experience is instantly communicated to all. With the eyes of everyone in the neighborhood linked in surveillance via the web, there are few quiet news days.
Neighborhood web surveillance may call to mind images of frightened citizens ready at all times to dial 911, eyes glued to live video fed from cameras mounted outside their homes. Some artists have addressed this issue by representing video surveillance as a way for the police to identify and eradicate undesirables like illegal vendors, activists, and street people from public squares and parks. Hoyt’s Poho Posit instead celebrates the community connectivity offered by the online forum and works to establish a role for artists in this emerging digital territory.
Poho Posit is an interactive portrait of Powderhorn Park that aims to be as participatory and interactive as the discussion forum it is based on. Acting like a crime scene investigator, Hoyt visits the alleys, bus stops, and street intersections he has read about in posts. He takes photographs, then renders the reported events as he imagines they would have appeared: chickens loose in an alley in the middle of the night, strangers in a parking lot trying to open car doors, an intruder making his way up the stairs of an apartment building. He represents these scenes in a beautiful Hopperesque style, then turns his drawings into animated video micronarratives that he posts on the web. At the actual locations of the original reports he posts inconspicuous signs with QR codes that link his neighbors’ smartphones directly to his animations, embedded in a gorgeous hand-drawn map that includes every tightly plotted lot in Powderhorn Park. The original drawings for this map are arranged as an installation in the Soap Factory gallery, and neighborhood residents are invited to take the framed sections representing plots where they live. Hoyt recognizes the poetry and the beauty in the banal realities of urban living narrated in his neighbors’ daily posts. With Poho Posit he lovingly re-creates them and gives them back to the community as gifts.
I seek to establish new and unique creative methodologies that push boundaries for what, why, and how art engages diverse public participants. I seek challenges to examine art and the social role of artists as well as being a vehicle for aesthetic representation. In the past decade, my work has taken on the form of environments, installations and situations that invite the public to freely participate, when presented. Although I earned a BFA in drawing and painting, I attribute this tendency to my previous work as a theatrical set designer. I am driven by the possibilities of simultaneously producing art objects, creating a platform for facilitating unique shared experience, and connecting diverse and often nontraditional art audiences.
b. 1970, Northfield, Minnesota
mentor: Wing Young Huie
For nearly twenty years I have worked as an artist in two distinct modes. One is creating art objects and public art projects and exhibiting them in conventional arts and cultural venues. The other involves designing, implementing, and embedding arts-integrated youth development programs in nontraditional arts institutions. These have included neighborhood development programs, homeless youth drop-in centers, youth employment programs, and nonprofit social service agencies.
I have been fortunate to exhibit artwork and produce public art across a wide range of communities and venues. Reaching new audiences in unexpected ways through art is important to me. Whether I’m working with a gathering of ice fishers in the suburban Midwest, tourists in Waikiki, financial executives on their lunch break, rural Minnesotans, or Twin Cities homeless youth, I believe my work is most successful when it actively engages diverse groups of people in meaningful creative exchange.