What follows is seen as a set of lines for thinking along, routes of exploration, rather than chapter headings or specific research topics (although things may end up being both of those at some stage in the future). There are various crossovers between several the elements listed. It is not intended as a description of all the thinking that can be done around topics of contemporary public art and cities, more of a personal guide for activities, readings and exploration.
My focus on contemporary public art (loosely defined) is a way of limiting things by excluding historical monuments and modernist pieces of public sculpture. The option of excluding capital cities is based on the belief that such cities are often unusual, with more in common with each other as a group of global cities than being representative of their nation’s cities. Limiting the geographical focus to north-west Europe and north America is partly based on my personal experience (and ease of travel from a base in Birmingham, UK) and partly because cities in those locations broadly share some sort of underlying culture. If opportunities arise to look at cities in other parts of the world, these will be taken.
This framework-for-thinking has already shaped activities between 2015 and 2017, and will continue to guide activities over the period 2017-2025. Outcomes will include deeper personal understandings of the relevant topics; contact across a network of key intermediaries with personal, occupational or academic interests in public art and cities; as well as various writings and presentations around key themes that emerge.
An early action is to share this framework of ideas with others, as well as scheduling visits to more cities and undertaking more studies. Cities already visited have included 10 UK and 4 US/Canada cities. Proposed visits in 2017-2025 will be to at least 30 further cities (10 UK; 10 US/Canada; 10 mainland European).
The thinking-framework being used includes:
Initial understandings of:
What counts as ….. Current/historical perspectives on ….. :
Contemporary issues of cities:
Devolution; city-regions; networked cities
Landscapes; amenities; international rankings
Demographics; cultures; identities of place
Change; renewal; regeneration; sustainability
Public/ private interplays
Intelligent decision-making/ smart planning
Purposes of public art in contemporary cities:
Interplay of spaces and interventions
Really useful art; art as decoration – in purposeful city, liveable city and city as destination
Legacies, statements, signature pieces of art
Community cohesion and community development
Artistic impacts; legibility and visual literacy; cultural representations, reputations and realities
Cities of culture; cultural cities
Art as respected object, art as familiarity; art as ambiguity
Art as problem-making; as opposition; as shock; art for thinking with
Who is it for (and on what basis)?
Artist ambitions and public expectations:
Different interventions, different engagements, different approaches; different financial models
Actions and objects; seen and unseen; fixed and mobile; isolated and gathered together
Artist careers; new artistic strategies and ambitions; different media/ different modes
Experimentations and evolutions
‘Career’ of neighbourhood; city trajectory
Site and location
Reputation and opinion
Permanence and transience
Curating public art
‘Career’ of a piece of public art
Decision-making – how and by whom:
Policies, priorities, practices, amendments
Collaboration and engagement
Determinations of place/ people/ organisation/ artist
Commissioning and decommissioning
Competitions and purchasing
Stock and flow
Who pays and how?
Bureaucracies and creativities
Governance, planning, funding, policies:
Economic development; placemaking; civic and community engagement
Cultural offers; cultural industries; cultural quarters
National/ Regional/ City/ Neighbourhood/ Locality
City administrations/ voluntary organisations/ business interests
Values (for money)
Public art policies, strategies and approaches
Synchronicities and diachronicities:
Maps, lists, directories
Interconnections and intersections
Local (and wider) histories of art/public art
Histories of places and peoples – national, city, community, site
Recurring operational issues:
Ownership; maintenance; security and protection
Individual responsibilities/collective overviews
Promotion, publicity and role of the media
Assessments and evaluations
Public art and ….. :
Architecture; commemoration; protest; urban design, internet as place, writing, performance, vandalism, meanings, histories, freedoms.
Linkages to identity; ambiguity and uncertainty; story-making; wellbeing; significance; value/use; progress; issues of public/private; representation; meanings; histories; freedoms; consensus and controversies.
Continuing emerging puzzles and challenges:
Changing context – political, economic, social, artistic – changes in the work, in the space
Implications for cities, artists, observers, residents
Assumptions, existing scripts and narratives (re control, power, access, relationships, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, cultures)
Post financial crash/austerity; post-ideologies; post-class; post-expert; post-truth, post-fact; post-‘post’….