Will Kwan is an artist who refuses to be tied to one medium. “Art is more about critical consciousness for me than anything else,” he says. “I call what I do social sculpture. It’s about social relationships rather than materials.” Kwan, 26, graduated from the University of Toronto at Scarborough in 2002 with a BA in visual and performing arts, and last year enrolled at Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York.
Since then, he’s been travelling extensively. He was the only Canadian artist asked to participate in a student show of site-specific works at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Later that year, he worked with a Lithuanian actress to create two meditative monologues about “24-hour, perpetual culture” as part of an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania. The centre plays the monologues when callers are put on hold.
Kwan’s real passion at the moment, though, is a project he calls “Exit Art,” which he hopes will prompt New York City residents to examine the potential impact of an immense new sports arena being considered for Manhattan’s west side. Kwan is helping to organize a “tailgate party” to protest the city’s plans. Participants will gather at the proposed site of the new stadium and will use their car stereos to blast a recording of crowd and traffic sounds. Kwan’s idea is to create a sound sculpture that replicates the noise that a new stadium in the neighbourhood would create.
“Social sculptures take many different forms,” he says. “My interest is in the moments and spaces where individuals and groups enter the public sphere.”