The Fruits of Our Labor

11.2 / In/With/For the Public

The Fruits of Our Labor

By David Allen Burns, Austin Young January 15, 2020

In/With/For the Public is supported by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, a private family foundation dedicated to enhancing quality of life by championing and sustaining the arts, promoting early childhood literacy, and supporting research to cure chronic disease.

 

Our artwork is always about people and place. Public collaboration, participation, and engagement in public spaces are at the core of our art practice and an integral part of the projects we create, such as the Public Fruit Jam, Lemonade StandFallen Fruit Magazine, and The Endless Orchard. Fruit and public spaces are both a part of culture. We are interested in the rituals of everyday life and how our memories are connected to place and also to simple objects, like fruit, that are both familiar and symbolic.

Our works are often serialized public projects that activate a temporary community and celebrate everyone. They are varied in scale and impact, and do not require prerequisite knowledge or particular skills—everyone is welcome and is invited to participate. We are guests to communities we don’t live in, and it’s surprising how much great work can be done when you are an outsider. It lends a different perspective to everyone. One of the unique qualities of collaborative artworks is that they allow all participants to become equal. Regardless of age, gender, cultural differences, language preferences, we are sharing in an activity or experience of place that uses the subject and the material to transform everyday meaning and create new cultural understanding.

The purpose of art is not to provide answers or solutions to other people's problems, but to deepen the understanding of other people and the world around us. The public means everybody and not one way of looking at the world.  

David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit. SUPERSHOW (detail), 2019; Portrait of David (found object), repeat pattern Spektro Completo created for Orto Botanico in Palermo, Italy. Commissioned by the PDC Design Gallery, Los Angeles, California, 2019. Courtesy of the Artists.

The Public Fruit Jam, a well-documented public participatory project that invites everyone to collaborate on making fruit jams to share with family, friends, and strangers without using recipes, and instead, by a negotiation of flavors. Often, a person will end up sitting next to another person or family they don’t know and start to share stories about family and history. People may discover there is a common bond through food and culture.

Another example is our Lemonade Stand. In exchange for a glass of lemonade, we ask everyone to draw a “self-portrait” onto a lemon using black markers. These hand-drawn portraits are then photographed with the participant, and all of the lemon portraits are photographed another time without the artist creating a group snapshot of the public in one day. Instead of being a child’s investigative exercise in capitalism, Fallen Fruit’s Lemonade Stand explores our quality of character in the public realm. The more fun you can have, the more fun it is. In fact, we think we should lower our expectations for outcomes and be present in the moment.

Fallen Fruit Magazine brings together public participation, local histories, and story-telling. Using strategies of collage, a temporary team of culture advocates use fruit as a symbol, object, and/or subject to create original editorial content in a one-day a site-specific contemporary culture magazine. Each edition is unique and is editorially focused on topics and subject matter that is historically meaningful to the neighborhood and/or region. A final PDF is available for download.

For The Endless Orchard, Fallen Fruit distributes free-of-charge bare-root fruit trees. We encourage the planting of these trees in either public space or on the boundary of private property. Each recipient signs an adoption form promising to care for the tree and initiating a relationship with it.  Everywhere you go, there is local. What’s important about community-based public practice is creating works of art or projects that explore the nuances and complexities of what a “public” is in a geographical way.

We are contemporary artists. Maintaining the integrity of these participatory artworks is essential to us when working with different institutions who often see public programming as being for children, causing parents to view them as daycare. Recognize this, and still create great work. We have a philosophy and core principals which keep our projects grounded and consistent. Some of these ideas are about dismantling hierarchy, and traditional ideas of teacher vs. student, which we definitely do not follow. We are hosts. We are not experts. There is no right way to do something. We can’t control an experience. We can’t control outcomes. We must let go and be present in the moment. Asking questions and listening is the best way to connect to people. This is how we learn and research for our exhibition projects. If we can find community through a shared common experience, we can form new bonds that transcend the limitations of time, and space, and politics. We believe that we have enough in this world to polarize us as a population. Let’s create experiences that bring people together. We believe in everyone. In this, we find the richest results. Our philosophy at its core is about sharing. Fostering community. Forging bonds. Fruit is beautiful. Aesthetic. Sweet.

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Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Since 2013, David Burns and Austin Young have continued the collaborative work.

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