Of If And Like

Submitted by Nancy Livengood

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Client: Fulton County Arts and Culture

Location: Atlanta, GA, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $109,100

Project Team

Artist

Erik Carlson

Area C Projects

Artist

Erica Carpenter

Area C Projects

Project Manager

Alex Frankcombe

Fulton County

Conservator

Nancy Livengood

Fulton County

Photographer

Tom Meyer

Overview

Inspired by orators and their use of repetition as a strategy for building energy around their ideas, OF IF AND LIKE is a text-based art installation that assembles a variety of voices from Atlanta’s past and present, bringing them together in a strange and ever-changing chorus. The phrases in its mirrored glass surfaces come from hundreds of works by Atlantans: poets; preachers, storytellers; songwriters, historians, hip-hop artists and more.
As you watch, the artwork uses custom software to re-sort and reconfigure its archive of over 10,000 phrases into ever-changing, mantra-like assemblages that are constantly on the move. The phrases were pulled from their original sources on the basis of beginning with the words of, if, and or like. These words were selected for the way they act as connectors in the things we say and write, and while the phrases they introduce can feel unfinished when they stand alone, something interesting happens when you put them together: they begin to ‘collaborate,’ to go off in new directions and form new connections of their own. Through the medium of text and the live merging of many voices, OF IF AND LIKE reflects Atlanta as a city whose countless unique parts add up to something greater than (while forming the essence of) the whole.

Goals

The goals for the artwork's integration into the library renovations were:
*to create an original and site-responsive artwork using the theme of 'Light and Enlightenment' – Part of the goal of the building's renovation was to introduce more light (natural and artificial). We wanted the artwork to play with this broader goal to feel part of the building.
*along with integration into the building, we wanted to ensure integration into the city's sense of place, thus the artwork would acknowledge Atlanta's past and present while participating in a shared vision for the future. It was also important that the work was of a scale and quality to draw visitors to downtown Atlanta and into the library.
*renovations involve removing and uncovering original elements once hidden; the artist incorporated this notion into the design by making it appear as if the newly constructed wall had uncovered the artwork, as it unevenly extrudes from the wall and around the corner like an artifact from the original 1980s design.
*to work with the community to create a dynamic and thoughtful piece that offers an engaging and authentic experience while drawing on the library as a place of knowledge, curiosity, and inspiration.

Process

In the initial stages of the process, we hosted a round table discussion with art leaders, historians, architects and other interested parties to discuss the important characteristics of Atlanta, its history, its community, its future. The four finalists were part of this discussion.
The artists were then given a tour of the library building with an explanation of its significance in the Bauhaus movement, its architect Marcel Breuer, and its role as part of a broader strategy to enhance downtown Atlanta as a key destination.
While Area C Projects worked to create and fabricate the artwork, they enlisted the Fulton County community to submit quotes or authors from or associated with Atlanta to add to their database. They then used a program to identify additional phrases creating an archive of over 10,000 phrases and 300 authors.
The artists collaborated with the Fulton County team to ensure that the technical specifications were correct for installation.
Following installation, the artists met with the team from Fulton County, as well as the manager and staff of Central Library to discuss the work, its cleaning and maintenance, as well as its possibilities and opportunities as a way for the library to connect with the library patrons.