Art in the Public Sphere
As the mythic narratives of collective unity, nationalism and progress have faltered in the era of postmodernity, what then is the public role of art? While art and design may serve the ideological interests of institutions, there also lies the potential for intervention and activism as well as a more critical relationship with popular culture.
This reading list is adapted from the graduate seminar of the same title. The central problematic of the course was the public domain as a zone of contestation, transformation, exchange, and participation. These readings are organized into three sections, examining conceptions of public(s), interrogating ideas of place and site, and considering particular curatorial and artistic strategies. The list begins by examining the elusive concepts of “the public” and the public sphere, moving on to consider their relationships to public art, and the meaning of public art itself. Public implies more than moving outside the gallery, and entails new forms of interaction between artists, audiences, and communities. Public art may act as a prism through which to understand wider cultural, societal, and political issues and trends. The list then turns to questions of approach and interpretation, from the role of art in virtual and physical space, site-specificity, and expanded notions of site, to perceptions of monumentality and ephemerality, to methods of performance, intervention, and activism, and interactive strategies such as dialogue, relationality, and participation. These readings offer lenses through which to examine contemporary art and design, and to critique and reformulate the notions of monument, memory, audience, and community.
[Image by AVDezign.]
The Public Realm: The Common
The Human Condition
University of Chicago Press
Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces
Art & Research: A Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods
I. PUBLIC(S): WHAT, WHO, WHOSE, WHERE?
The readings in this section explore conceptions of public(s) and public space, and the potential of art to open dialogue and provoke critique in the public sphere.
The Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society
Art and Public Space: Questions of Democracy
Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art
Rethinking the Black Public Sphere: An Alternative Vocabulary for Multiple Public Spheres
Public and Common(s)
A philosophical view of the terms public and commons, from the 20th-century treatises of Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas to recent books by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.
The Word Parrhesia
Monumental Interventions: Jeff Thomas Seizes Commemorative Space
Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture and Activism in Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Interview with Krzysztof Wodiczko: Making Critical Space Public
Stone and Bones: Visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum
The New Yorker
Transnationalizing the Public Sphere
Theory, Culture and Society
Boundary Issues: The Art World Under the Sign of Globalism
Art Biennales and Cities as Platforms for Global Dialogue
Festivals and the Cultural Public Sphere
II. TROUBLING THE SITE
The readings in this section examine the sites and spaces of public art, from the politics of shared spaces to the possibilities of the digital commons.
Cultural Pilgrimages and Metaphoric Journeys
Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art
The Heidelberg Project
The Art of the Locality
The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context
Duke University Press
The Tilted Arc Controversy: Dangerous Precedent?
University of Minnesota Press
Investigating the Public Art Commissioning System: The Challenges of Making Art in Public
The Practice of Public Art
Uneven Development: Public Art in New York City
Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics
The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere and Social Change
War, Art and the Internet: A Canadian Case Study
Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
REPOhistory's Circulation: The Migration of Public Art to the Internet
These readings consider how artists and curators approach art in the public sphere, exploring means and methods of creative intervention and provocation.
Interview with Paulo Freire: Discussing Dialogue
Dialogues in Public Art
After OWS: Social Practice Art, Abstraction, and the Limits of the Social
The Artistic Mode of Revolution: from Gentrification to Occupation
The Writing on the Walls: The Graffiti of the Intifada
Art as Occupation: Claims for An Autonomy of Life
Subversive Affirmation: On Mimesis as Strategy Of Resistance
East Art Map: Contemporary Art and Eastern Europe
At Home on the Street: Public Art in Montreal and Toronto
Urban Enigmas: Montreal, Toronto, and the Problem of Comparing Cities
Montreal McGill-Queen's University Press
The Interventionists: Users Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life