The newspaper business, not to mention the art world, has come to this: a former reporter and editor with the San Francisco Chronicle and copy editor with the New York Times turned performance artist has been named “artist in residence” at Lindbergh Field by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. As we reported last fall, the airport advertised the opportunity in October. It features a stipend “not to exceed” $8000 for about three months’ work. The entire project is said to have a total “estimated bid value” of $118,000, including supplies. The mission: to come up with some kind of bafflingly described artistic contribution to the airport’s new terminal complex. “The ultimate goal of this project is for an artist to create an artwork that will stimulate an intentional and ongoing dialogue with the local and traveling communities through the creation and installation of site-specific art,” according to a request for qualifications posted on the authority’s website. “The most successful outcome will result in an appropriate and meaningful project that will convey the vision of the Authority while providing creative interpretation and insight [into] the day-to-day operations of the Airport.”
And the winner is: Sheryl Oring, who gave up her journalism career back in the ’90s and pursued her artistic career in Germany, staging Writer’s Block, a one-day exhibit of 600 antique European typewriters tumbled into 21 steel cages arranged on Berlin’s Bebelplatz, the site of an infamous Nazi book-burning exactly 66 years earlier. In the spring of 2008, Oring came up with the idea of traveling across America from city to city, taking dictation on an old typewriter from passersby wanting to send a postcard message to the then-still-to-be-chosen next president. For her part, Oring wore a secretarial outfit from the 1960s. “I listen very intently,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Some people have described it as being like a therapy session.”
Exactly what Oring, a onetime San Diego resident now living in Greensboro, North Carolina, will come up with for the airport has yet to be told. The agency’s art blog explains, “Oring is charged with observing the inner workings of the airport environment, from the day-to-day operations to the executive level,” but leaves it at that. The site goes on to say that Oring’s “process relies heavily on engaging broad-based audiences through the facilitation of public discourse on political, social, historical and personal subjects. Her work is manifested as sculpture, site-specific installations, books and videos.”
Reached by phone last week at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she is an assistant professor of art, Oring said she arrives in San Diego next week to begin work. Following her three-month residency here, she will submit the concept designs and budget for her artwork to airport officials. Once approved, the project will take more than a year to implement, she added. Oring noted that her $8000 initial stipend must cover her transportation to and from the East Coast, as well as food and lodging here. She also expects to receive an honorarium in an amount yet to be determined that will come from the construction expenditure.