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The ICA's Popularity Contest

Posted by Geoff Edgers  February 5, 2007 02:52 PM

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At first, the poll really bugged Jane D. Marsching. She's one of four finalists for the ICA Artist Prize, to be selected by a jury. The ICA, wanting to embrace all things interactive in its snazzy, new mediatheque, has been allowing visitors to vote, a la "American Idol," for their favorite artist.

"It was a sort of third grade gut response," Marsching told me today. "When I go over to see my show there's this thing about being a popularity contest."

This, coming from an artist who isn't afraid of the Net, as you can see from her website.

"I have a blog in the show," says Marsching, who now just ignores the public voting. "I'm a big fan of engaging the viewers and a process or inquiry and conversation and thoughts around ideas. That's what my work's about. But if you're going to ask people about the show and the work and get them to think about it and feel they have a stake in it, I don't think this is the way to do it."

Okay. She's got a point. But since we're keeping score, the most recent public vote shows Sheila Gallagher in the lead (40.47 percent of the vote), following by Rachel Perry Welty (30.16), Kelly Sherman (14.98) and Marsching (14.4). The four-person jury will likely decide on a winner later this week.

So how does Gallagher, the big winner so far, feel about the vote?

"I'm not a big fan," she said by phone from the ICA, where she was climbing down from a ladder. "Thomas Kinkade's a popular guy, too."

Gallagher says if there had to be a popular vote, it would have been better to have it announced at the end instead of tallied constantly.

"Here, there's so much emphasis on the prize, the prize. I feel like it takes the focus off the work, where it should be. The popular vote just adds to the prize mentality."


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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..

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