by Matthew Mazzotta
Artist Matthew Mazzotta, the Coleman Center for the Arts, and the people of York Alabama have teamed up to work together and transform a blighted property in York’s downtown into a new public art project that is in the shape of a house, but can physically transform into a 100 seat open air theater, free for the public.
Through open conversations, hard work and planning we have developed a project that uses the materials from an abandoned house as well as the land it sits on to build a new smaller house on the footprint of the old house. However this new house has a secret, it physically transforms from the shape of a house into an open air theater that seats 100 people by having its walls and roof fold down. We call our project ‘Open House’.
Open House lives mostly in the form of a house between the grocery store and the post office, reminding people what was there before, but it opens up when the community wants to enjoy shows, plays, movies, and any other event people can think of that supports community life here in York. When the theater is folded back up into the shape of a house the property is a public park for anyone to enjoy.
Open House was awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Visual Artist Network.
Matthew Mazzotta is a conceptual artist and lecturer at MIT – Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT). He creates permanent and temporary public interventions that range from opening up new social spaces inside the built environment, to addressing more pressing environmental issues, but always with a focus on community and public participation.
Matthew’s work evolves from an interest in exploring the relationship between people and their environments, as well as between each other. His practice is conceptual and manifests as participatory public interventions that aim at bringing criticality and a sense of openness to the places we live. The work triggers social situations that open space for dialogues around issues of ‘becoming’, understanding that there is much more to us than our surroundings give us credit to ‘be’. The objects, situations, and spaces he creates as community projects and participatory interventions, ask us to relate to ourselves, and each other in unfamiliar ways, in hopes of finding new perspectives on how we see ourselves in this world.
By creating unique and unfamiliar visions of our world, Matthew’s work focuses on drawing people in by curiosity, so they may begin to find themselves participating in something unrehearsed. It is about challenging our notions of space, cutting apart what has become invisible to us, and providing a context for not merely “acting”, but “reacting” — and “interacting.” This process revolves around introducing an idea to a location, for it to be appropriated and expanded upon by the people there, which ultimately becomes a reflection of that community.
These socially-engaged, participatory public interventions allow for a re-entry of the physical and metaphorical landscapes of our lives by provoking conversations around exploring the “local”, questions of ecology, public involvement, community building, artists’ sensibilities, science, bringing criticality to a space, and dissecting the systems that make up our ‘everyday’. The work is about building a platform that allows people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to exchange ideas and energies, so that they can work together towards a final goal or transformation. Often times these projects include working with local laborers, academics, engineers, builders, community members, activists, artists, poets, and anyone else that is willing to be involved in something experiential and participatory.
By piercing through the roles we play in public, we break up the narratives of specific public spaces. Matthew’s work is about reversing the top down ‘one way’ exchange of ideas and allowing people to ‘contribute’ in a more tangible way to their own environment. Allowing people time and a context to explore the knowledge, beauty, sentiments, and hidden elements that surround them, enables a community to see aspects of itself that it usually would not be able to see.
This work was submitted by Matthew Mazzotta on 31 October 2014.