marksearch, a wife-husband artist team, creates interactive public projects that invite people to reflect upon their communities and increase their awareness of the natural environment within the urban fabric. Our site-specific temporary and permanent projects emerge from a comprehensive process that weaves the needs and views of local agencies and the general public with the unique qualities of local history, the built environment, and the ecosystem.
Our methodology synthesizes our backgrounds: Bruce Douglas, a Professional Mechanical Engineer, contributes green-building skills and extensive knowledge of local creek stewardship, regional environmental issues and community-building activities; Sue Mark, with a BA in philosophy and linguistics and an MFA from the California College of the Arts, has created national and international projects about local history, culture and community challenges since 1996.
Since 2000, marksearch has collaborated with non-profits, community groups, students, historians, urban planners, and municipalities worldwide to create projects that move beyond art. We have received project support from: the Creative Work Fund, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Oakland's Open Proposal Program, the Fulbright Commission and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Our participant-driven projects promote independent thinking and create a platform from which any individual can offer an opinion. We ask deceptively simple questions to explore the complexity of implicit power and social relationships. Through the development of kinetic vehicles, traveling signage, unconventional surveys, and official logos, we craft a much-needed conversational commons: the responses and stories that people on the street are inspired to share with us form our content.
In our work as public service 'conversation artists', we have noted that many avenues for free public discussion have disappeared. We no longer have:
* the commons, a communal space that existed for the unrestricted sharing of goods and services;
* the town crier, the human news messaging system;
* physical community bulletin boards, a democratic venue where individuals could share neighborhood information.
Our project findings underscore the need for open avenues of informal public discussion where people can define and critique their relationship to their city and neighborhood. This kind of intimate relationship between people and place provides authentic interaction among community members. Our temporary and permanent projects, regardless of location, push the boundaries of how community-based art can influence public policy.