Miranda July has blown up recently. She made a movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know, that won the Caméra d’Or prize at the Sundance Film Festival and all that comes with it. She has written for The New Yorker (once) and she recently published No One Belongs Here More than You: Stories, which had a bright yellow cover and sat with other notable new fiction in bookstores across the country. This all goes to say that she gets more press than a lot of other artists. When I see her work, I’m alternately charmed and put off. What really does me in is her vivid sexuality: she writes about female characters that are very lonely and are ashamed of the sexual things they want. Sexual shame sucks, and for that reason, I made a big symbolic gesture and tossed out my copy of her book, which was histrionic of me, I must admit. Yet she can charm my pants off when she talks about love, especially between two awkward grown-up people. All in all, I’m deeply conflicted. “Learning to Love You More” is a 2004 project of hers that is an odd example of public art. It’s an open collaboration between July and any amateur artist that wants in, via the power of the internet. She has given about 70 homework assignments, and the work people sends her is displayed in public spaces. A harsh critic would claim that anyone who visits July’s website is already part of the art-going public, so July is just servicing the old audience, not creating a new audience for art. However, I think it’s a nice effort and it does take art off the pedestal, which is another aspect of the public art movement. I respect her efforts to bring art into the world.
The photo is of “Assignment 27: take a picture of the sun” in a gallery in San Diego’s MCA. It looks pretty sweet; I would like to see it sometime:
To look at Miranda July in an interesting context, she is a citizen that does her civic duty admirably. She challenges her audience with difficult issues (me in particular) and she brings her art into public spaces. Since she’s big, lots of people are watching her, and it's even more important that she behave impeccably.