As the dust starts to settle on Public Functionary’s orgy of esoteric PR pomp and circumstance, collective whispers can be heard rising from the cloud,..“What’s next?" This new Minneapolis gallery gem is the perfect reflection of a social media drenched society suffering from attention deficit disorder. It’s multi dimensional mission statement describes a cross pollination of technology, communication, and culture that fits perfectly with a generation demanding a wealth of choices and the opportunity to pick, choose, and comment on their experience.
It’s hard to ignore the hype, with a collection of great names to drop. Doomtree artist Dessa filmed her video “Call Off Your Ghost” using the inaugural exhibit DZINE: Victory as a backdrop, and Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz gave a talk singing praises for their vision. But with victory come the spoils, as some cynics might say, “You’ve made your splash, but can you sustain it?” You can already hear a slight bubbling in the lake as the critics are ready to condemn it’s lack of supporting local artists, but its early and time will tell if the local artists will be integrated as promised on their website.
The current exhibition Sougwen: Chiaro/Oscuro follows Public Functionary’s multi discipline model, showing a full grab bag of expression ranging from installation, to hand drawn lyrical swills, and digital prints on silk. This multi-pak paradox is it's strength and weakness. Sougwen's installation includes an electronic score, but so does the rest of the work in the gallery. Sure, there's something for everyone, but at the cost of self contamination. These snippets of her work struggle to come together as a whole. Using her metaphor of "New Drawing" to include all forms within the exhibit sounds more like a not so cleaver way of tying a bow around the show.
If its the intention of the space to create a flavor with its mix of ingredients, DZINE’s overall collection sang more true, with the sum of the parts contributing to the whole. As Chiaro/Oscuro is only open at night, the 2D work suffers under the low light requirements of the film and installation work. This is of course not a new problem as museums continually face the challenge of accommodating various forms within their classic confines. Funtionary's appeal is its ambitious drive to be many things to many people, and it will have to continue to balance this line in the future.
With the wealth of resources available at Functionary, including neighboring print-house The Lab, and Permanent design group, artists run the risk of trying to do too much just because they can. Did we really need to hear Scarlet Johanson sing Tom Waits covers just because we'd listen? This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as having the chance to experiment and god forbid fail, could be what's most exciting about the potential of Public Functionary. It's also why it should be supported and applauded. Today's failure could be tomorrow's triumph.