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'10 Cameras' brings notions of public art into focus

November 08, 2010

Art project seeks community participants

What do you get with 10 cameras and 10 artists? 10 opportunities for greatness, says Peter Christenson, an MFA candidate in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, who is leading a public art project that explores interactions between artists and the community at large – with the help of 10 disposable cameras.

And Christenson is looking for people to participate.

Here’s how it works: “Recently, the 10 Cameras Project team selected 10 artists and anonymously sent one package to each of the respective participants,” Christenson said. “Each package contained a 27-exposure disposable camera and was accompanied by a detailed letter of instructions inviting the artist to shoot all of the exposures and submit the undeveloped camera, either by mail or in person, to a drop-box in Phoenix.”

Christenson has collected all 10 cameras and now is looking to the next stage of the project: “inviting all community members irrespective of academic or professional experiences to submit bartering proposals indicating what goods you would be willing to provide us with in exchange for one of the artist cameras.”

Ten of the proposals submitted by members of the community will be selected, and the traded objects then will be collected and exhibited, alongside the developed photos, in a Phoenix gallery for a month-long installation.

For details about how to get involved in the project and to learn who the 10 artists are, visit The 10 Cameras Project team is currently accepting bartering proposals at with a deadline of Dec. 1.

Christenson, a multidisciplinary artist and writer who works in new genre, conceptual and performance-based media, took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the project.
The success of 10 Cameras will hinge on the community’s participation, in addition to the artists’ involvement. What do you hope comes out of these exchanges between the artists and the community?

I’m certainly excited about the project’s reciprocal gift-giving and value exchange, but perhaps even more intrigued by the opportunity for continued dialogue and interaction between the artists and diverse communities. Additionally, because so much of the project has remained veiled and hidden – i.e., the photos have not been developed, the artists don’t know each other, and the community proposals are still a mystery to all involved – there’s a terrific element of surprise and revelation that I’m greatly anticipating.

Figuring out who the 10 artists would be set into motion the first chain-link of the project.  How difficult was the process in picking the artists?

The process revealed itself pretty organically. I essentially started with a list of individuals who I thought were untraditionally innovative and inspirational; most dabbled in social practice of some sort and were strong advocates for their communities. A bit of research, and I narrowed it down to a diverse group of emerging and established creative souls that I feel represents a range of backgrounds, experiences and unique perspectives.

In this, the era of digital photography, why did you choose to go with disposable cameras?

Because we’re in an era of digital photography.

I feel like there is a great metaphor driving 10 cameras. What is the impetus for the project?

"I am reminded again of the idea that art about life is not so important for what it does for art, but what it does for life." –Ben Kinmont

What is more significant, in your opinion: the act of the exchange or the measured value coming from that exchange? Or are they sort of entangled?

I’d argue that the exchange and derived value are inextricably linked, and that the exchange of goods is actually secondary to the exchange of ideas and the ensuing discourse between the participants. That said, there’s another crucial exchange happening within the project as well, namely the role swap between observer and participant, and how the 10 Cameras Project hopes to foster a reciprocal relationship between what is customarily deemed the viewing audience and what is considered the artist.

It’s a unique opportunity to challenge and redefine roles ultimately granting the “other” entry within this context.