"Is this an art tour? Is this some random city tour? Is this some touristy thing? No one really knows what this is."
-- Kate Pocrass
Most artists strive to create unique and unusual representations of the world around them. This is decidedly not the case for Kate Pocrass, a conceptual artist and photographer living in San Francisco. Through her Mundane Journeys project, Pocrass has managed to use the often-overlooked as the basis for her public art.
Every week since starting Mundane Journeys in 2001, Pocrass updates a message on her project's telephone hotline at (415) 364-1465. She records directions to shops that are off the beaten track, odd-looking tree trunks in city parks, miscellaneous markings on sidewalks, specific foods in specialty markets and anything else that strikes her fancy. "If there's one reason I do like other people to do these things, it's [so they] stop and look with intention, not going from point A to B quickly," Pocrass tells Spark in the episode "Out and About."
Pocrass's hotline recordings often come with instructions prompting journeyers to do things like chat with employees at certain shops, visit the far back corner of a big box store for something special or admire a particular scene from a particular vantage point. Callers often leave on the hotline their own messages, suggestions and reactions.
To feed the cult following that demanded Mundane Journeys more frequently than once a week, Pocrass published a guidebook of the same name in 2003 that features 50 sample adventures. The latest version of Mundane Journeys is due out in the summer of 2006. Pocrass also organizes occasional bus tours that shuttle curious fans of her project to her favorite destinations. Armed with a handout describing journeys in the area, bus tour attendees dutifully march out into the streets to experience the people, places and things that have caught Pocrass's attention over the years.
"The bus tour is a very special atmosphere because there's art people on the bus, my roommates' family is on the bus - the dynamics between [them] are so great. People are trying to figure people out. [They're] not sure how to act. Is this an art tour? Is this some random city tour? Is this some touristy thing? No one really knows what this is," Pocrass says.
And therein lies part of the project's intrinsic artistic appeal. Mundane Journeys, which now encompasses the original hotline, a Web site, a guidebook and the bus tour, is as much about the interaction among journeyers and their varied experiences tracking down Pocrass's mundane destinations as it is about the destinations themselves.
In many senses, Pocrass's ongoing, constantly growing display of chosen spots challenges the boundaries and meaning of public art. Just as the bus tour escapes neat and tidy definitions, the entire project raises more questions about art than it answers. In fact, even the artist herself isn't quite sure how her project fits into the art world. "I have no idea how it's art other than I'm making people look at things they overlook," Pocrass says.
Kate Pocrass earned a B.F.A from the University of Michigan and an M.F.A. from the California College of Arts. She has exhibited work locally at Southern Exposure, the Rena Bransten Gallery, Spanganga, Pond and New Langton Arts and internationally at the Foundation de Appel, in the Netherlands, and Rooseum, in Sweden. She also was selected to participate in Bay Area Now IV, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. With Mundane Journeys, Pocrass is striving to emphasize the importance of having meaningful art encounters through socially attuned and ephemeral projects.
Also on KQED.org this week ...
Drought Watch 2015: Record-Low Sierra Snowpack
The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of California's water, is showing the lowest water content on record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1. That shatters last year's low-water mark of 25 percent (tied with 1977).
"Boomtown" History of the San Francisco Bay Area
KQED's "Boomtown" series will seek to identify what is happening in real time in the current boom, and also draw out the causes and possible solutions to the conflicts and pressures between the old and the new.