On events past and present

While I’ve been neglecting the blog over the last few months, I’ve nevertheless been taking inspiration from a few local opportunities and events!

Suzanne Paquette at her recent Adelaide seminar reminded me that the city is always already photographic, drawing on Latour’s concept of the cascade of images (or inscriptions) to outline the work of the Art and Site project in charting out (and also intervening in) relationships between urban space and the virtual (incidentally sending me off to visit the Ugly Public Art flickr group!)

The Competing Urbanisms workshop in Melbourne, organised by Lachlan MacDowall and Alison Young  (author of the recent book Street Art, Public City. Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination) brought together “academics and graduate students from Law, Criminology, Art History, Politics, Architecture, Urban Geography and Cultural Studies”, as well as writers, artists, policymakers, curators and architects and others, to facilitate conversations on “how urban interventions such as graffiti, street art and skateboarding are re-shaping city spaces and the way in which we use, interpret, regulate and create public space”.

To give a brief flavour of the event: a highlight was the discussions with local graffiti and street art practioners; Professor Andreas Brighenti (University of Trento), in his keynote address, gave examples of changing practices of urban representation as one way to introduce the concept of (competing) valuing practices; Kurt Iveson highlighted that power is distributed, bringing attention to the competitions that take place among individuals and agencies over the authority to shape public spaces and asking what kinds of authority it is that street artists enact in particular situations;  Lachlan MacDowall raised Taussig’s discussion of defacement as a touchstone for thinking about graffiti.

Participant Sabina Andron, PhD researcher at UCL (“Skin Deep: The material site specificity of urban surface inscriptions”), also took the opportunity to promote the forthcoming Graffitisessions in London, at which Alison Young is a speaker….

so, on the principle of better late than never, here is some information about this and a collection of other events that I would have quite liked to attend (or perhaps still might!):



Public Art Dialogue journal – latest issue and call for papers

Catching up on the latest (September) issue of Public Art Dialogue 4(2), its first ‘open’ or unthemed issue,  I see it includes a reprise of the story of Adrian Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue art work in Melbourne (mentioned in my The Everyday Life of Public Art- Part 1) with Fiona Hillary and Shanti Sumartojo examining visitor interactions with and responses to the work.

Contents of the September issue include:

  • Cher Krause Knight & Harriet F. Senie, ‘Editors’ Statement: Open Issue’, pp 173-174
  • Gregory Sale, ‘Re-entry: an evening beyond black and white’, pp 175-183
  • Sierra Rooney, “It’s Not About One Statue:” Fred Wilson’s E Pluribus Unum’, pp 184-200
  • Fiona Hillary & Shanti Sumartojo, ‘Empty-Nursery Blue: On Atmosphere, Meaning and Methodology in Melbourne Street Art’, pp 201-220
  • Zoe Bray, ‘Sculptures of Discord: Public Art and the Politics of Commemoration in the Basque Country’, pp 221-248
  • Laura Holzman, ‘A Question of Stature: Restoring and Ignoring Rocky’, pp 249-265
  • Jen Delos Reyes, Book Review: Diana Boros: Creative Rebellion for the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Public and Interactive Art to Political Life in America, pp 266-267
  • Rika Smith McNally, Book Review: Glenn Wharton: The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawai’i, pp 268-269

The journal Public Art Dialogue is sponsored by the organisation of the same name, here. PAD aims to provide platforms for dialogue across the wide range of professions and disciplines that public art encompasses. Its membership includes art historians, artists, curators, administrators, educators, architects and landscape architects.

Calls for submissions for forthcoming special issues of the journal include:

The Cinematic Turn
Submission Deadline: March 1, 2015
Co-Editors : Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F. Senie

With the rise of new technologies specifically relating to the moving image, the breadth of public art expanded as its practitioners engaged in more varied explorations, though it would be fair to say the migration of these technologies into public art was generally slower than their absorption into the museum and gallery. This issue focuses on the use of film, video and/or cinematic techniques and strategies, with the intention to recognize some of the earliest efforts to incorporate these art forms into public art practice as well as addressing their current manifestations.

The Dilemma of Public Art’s Permanence
Submission Deadline: September 1, 2015
Guest Editor: Erika Doss

The meaning of public art is neither inherent nor eternal but processual, dependent on various cultural and social relationships and subject to the volatile intangibles of multiple publics and their fluctuating interests and feelings. Consequently, public art that offends, contradicts, violates or challenges the beliefs of today’s publics may be defaced, despoiled, removed, re-sited, dismantled, destroyed and/or forgotten. What are the ethical and political implications of public art’s removal and destruction? Is it legitimate to erase or revise markers of history and culture? Do such acts constitute public dissent? Are there alternatives to public art’s defacement and destruction? This special issue invites articles, essays and artists’ projects that contextualize the dilemma of public art’s permanence, taking innovative approaches to the subject through focused case studies, comparative analyses, historicized investigations and theoretical arguments. Transnational perspectives are encouraged, as are proposals from public art practitioners, commissioners and curators.

Borders and Boundaries
Submission Deadline: March 1, 2016
Co-Editors: Cher Krause Knight and Harriet F. Senie

Borders and boundaries engage the notion of crossing: over geographical terrain, through social practices, across class systems, into different cultures, and around conceptual theories. Sometimes these delineations are clearly defined, but often they can become murky and potentially even richer. For this issue we seek various kinds of submissions that investigate how borders and boundaries of all types are signified–visually and otherwise–and understood, and how they function in relationship to public art. In particular, we are interested in examinations of how borders and boundaries may differ from each other, in both physical and metaphysical ways.

Submissions can include traditional scholarly articles, opinion pieces, ‘conversational dialogues’, and artists projects. Further information and submission guidelines are available here.

Call for proposals: P-E-R-F-O-R-M-I-N-G M-O-B-I-L-I-T-I-E-S

journeys – performances – exhibitions – symposium
17 September to 31 October 2015
Melbourne, Australia

via Mick Douglas and www.performingmobilities.net

P-E-R-F-O-R-M-I-N-G M-O-B-I-L-I-T-I-E-S is the Australian regional cluster contribution to Fluid States, a networked, year-long program initiated by Performance Studies international (PSi). Throughout 2015, fourteen regional performance gatherings will be staged in diverse global locations in order to rethink performance ideas and practices in terms of shifting geopolitical and socio-political realities.

P-E-R-F-O-R-M-I-N-G M-O-B-I-L-I-T-I-E-S explores how contemporary life in Australia, the world’s largest island continent, is framed by borders whilst constantly being reconstructed through dynamic processes of mobility. The project seeks to creatively and critically explore forms, forces, dynamics, meanings and consequences of performing mobility through a program of new experimental work. It proceeds from a series of journey-based projects throughout Australia over 2015, via a mobile performance program and gallery exhibitions, towards a symposium in Melbourne in October 2015.

Proposals are invited from artists, makers, writers and researchers for journeying projects and creative works for the performance and exhibition program, and contributions to a 3-day symposium. Cross-form and interdisciplinary creative projects and performances, temporary interventions, performative presentations and academic papers are sought which combine artistic research and critical reflection to investigate intersections of mobility and performance that are of specific relevance in Australia whilst being globally resonant.

mobile performance and gallery exhibition program
17 September to 31 October 2015
RMIT Gallery + Margaret Lawrence VCA Gallery + Melbourne environs

symposium: passages and traces performing mobilities
9-11 October 2015 / RMIT University + venues of Melbourne

CALL FOR CREATIVE PROJECTS [closes 31 October 2014]

Proposals for journey projects, mobile performances, creative works and research presentations are invited that will make a compelling contribution to one or more of the Performing Mobilities programs: a six-week gallery exposition program tracing journey-based projects performing mobility in Australia over 2015; a coinciding mobile performance program in and around the gallery expositions and Melbourne’s environs; a three-day symposium presentation and performance event in Melbourne. Proposals selected by the curatorial team will be offered an artist’s fee.

Project Proposals closing date: 31 October 2014.
Accepted proposals announced: December 2014.


Academic papers, performative presentations and performances are invited. Abstracts of proposals will be peer reviewed. Selected papers will be invited to be developed for publication in a special edition of the Australasian Drama Studies journal in 2016 and/or an edited volume reflecting upon the Performing Mobilities project.

Symposium Proposals closing date: 19 December 2014.
Accepted proposals announced: March 2015.

RESIDENCE IN MOBILITY with a journey project:

A number of journey-based projects throughout 2015 will invite artists, writers, makers and academics to undertake a participatory role. Details of mobile residency opportunities will be announced on the project website in December 2014.


Each Fluid States cluster invites members of the PSi international community to act as visiting correspondents to ‘log’ online posts and publications to the Fluid States website. Go to www.fluidstates.org to express interest in corresponding from the Performing Mobilities Australian cluster.

Further information:

PERFORMANCE STUDIES INTERNATIONAL (PSi) is a professional association founded in 1997 to promote communication and exchange among artists, thinkers, activists and academics working in the field of performance. This is a dynamic field of encounters rather than a discipline grounded in one particular methodology or tradition.

PERFORMING MOBILITIES NETWORK is an unincorporated association producing the project. The network aims to further creative practice and research exploring intersections of performance and mobility by generating projects, events and forums.

Enquiries: info@performingmobilities.net 

The Everyday Life of Public Art – Part 1

Or covering, moving, and removing

Artworks in urban public space inevitably become actors in all kinds of sanctioned and unsanctioned activities and interventions (think of photography, sitting, urinating, taking shelter, graffiti, political protest, yarn bombing, skateboarding, cycling, parkour…). Some of these activities receive more attention than others across various media, such as the popular press and/or academic publishing.

Burke and Wills Monument 10 June 2013 Burke and Wills Monument 10 June 2013

IMAGES: Charles Summers (1865), Burke and Wills Monument, Swanston Street, Melbourne. Photography: David Richards, 10 June 2013.

The act of temporarily covering Melbourne’s Burke and Wills Monument with crayoned messages and gaffer-taped posters (already removed in the images above), does seem to puncture the often-cited ‘invisibility’ of nineteenth century statuary. It potentially draws a different range of public comment than the same acts applied to walls and footpaths; momentarily drawing the historical object from its invisibility cloak into more obviously contemporary urban politics and debate. (Where, no doubt, it had always belonged, had we only been paying attention.)

The commemorative function of such monuments seems interlinked with common assumptions about stability or fixity; assumptions belied by the evident mobility of public sculptures – these are objects (like the Burke and Wills Monument) regularly moved around the city according to the exigencies of road and building construction, politics and taste.

Sculptures from the late twentieth century are just as amenable to relocation as conventional monuments (irrespective of any artists’ claims about the integral relationship between artwork and site )  viz. Ron Robertson-Swann’s peripatetic sculpture Vault (1978) in Melbourne’s CBD; Owen Broughton’s Steel Sculpture (1976) in Adelaide (removed from Rundle Mall in 1988 only to reappear twenty years later in Liberman Close/Ebenezer Place); or the impending displacement of Bert Flugelman’s Twin Spheres (1977) a few metres along the Rundle Mall.

…I confess to a mental image of these objects, with each act of transport, flickering in and out of perceptual space from some other, hyper space of overlapping field relations!

Perhaps Adrian Doyle was thinking something similar with his recent Empty Nursery Blue project, presented by Doyle’s Art in conjunction with RMIT’s Urban Laboratory, and the City of Melbourne. With a wry nod to the practices of both contemporary art and City Council anti-graffiti squads, Doyle spent Sunday 26 August spraying over the accessible surfaces of Melbourne’s Rutledge Lane with a custom mix of blue paint, effacing all traces of the street art for which the Lane is famous, and making strangely visible the (re-imagined) lane itself.

The project generated an immediate flurry of online reporting of images and text (including a time lapse animation of the transformation), with comments ranging from outrage at the arrant colonisation of a physical space assumed to be shared by a community of street artists, to appreciative accounts of experiencing the radically transformed environment, and sheer joy at the horde of street artists prompted to throw themselves almost immediately into re-claiming the empty canvas of the street. [See for example: ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, Arts Hub, The Age (26/8/13), The Age (31/8/13), Herald Sun, Artfido Blog, Invurt, Black Mark, among many more. A statement from Doyle can be found here.]

A less sophisticated approach to the act of “painting over”, or at least one that seems to have provoked no obvious (online) trace of dialogue, is demonstrated with another example.

Bell St Mall 8 June 2013  Bell St Mall 8 June 2013

IMAGES: entrance to the Bell Street Mall, West HeidelberG, MELBOURNE. PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID RICHARDS, 8 JUNE 2013.

At the entrance to the Bell Street Mall in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg West stands a family of three sculptural figures, probably made of cast metal and lately re-imagined through the simple application of paint as colourful and perhaps playful landmarks for the shopping centre.  Set amidst nearby neighbourhood renewal schemes of State and local government, the mall itself is the focus of a yet-to-be-implemented Urban Development Framework and Master Plan.  The mall is currently awaiting its own transformation while continuing to provide a range of goods and services to local residents, including an important meeting space for a lively Somali community.

The Housing Commission of Victoria designed the Mall in 1954-56, at the same time as the nearby Olympic Village, as a shopping centre for its Heidelberg estate. Regarded today as Victoria’s first “American style, drive-in shopping centre”  [Heritage Victoria (2008) Survey of Post-War Built Heritage in Victoria: Stage One, prepared by Heritage Alliance, North Melbourne, p 229], it was envisaged at the time as a shopping centre that would explicitly  “accommodate today’s traffic” by incorporating a central, open-air mall restricted to foot traffic, with surrounding areas set aside for off-street car parking. When it was opened in 1956, the Argus newspaper lauded the shopping centre’s “simple lines”, the shop “fronts designed and fitted by Silverwood and Beck”, as an example of “how plain, utilitarian planning can be attractive“.

I’ve found no documentation (yet) of the Mall’s sculptural entrance figures (other than the image shown below, taken prior to their latest coat of paint), but I’m inclined to think they arrived in 1956 together with post-war modern, cost effective and functional shopping centre design. [***NB See comments/replies below – sculpture has been attributed to Tuncay Tanyer, commissioned in 1997 by the City of Heidelberg as part of the Bell St Mall Entrance Design Strategy.]

Bell Street Mall Sculptures

IMAGE: Tuncay Tanyer (c.1997), The family, BELL STREET MALL, WEST HEIDELBERG, MELBOURNE. Source: National library of australia pandora web archive (City of Banyule council, 2011)

If there was ever a plaque or sign in the Mall indicating the artist or manufacturer of these figures, it has long disappeared (removed perhaps as a gesture to Australian artists’ moral rights legislation?).

In any case, the covering of these figures with new paint at some date clearly indicates their re-purposing – away from likely assumptions about the cultural sophistication that artwork would lend a suburban shopping centre in the 1950s (at the peak of national and international scrutiny brought by the Olympic Games) and towards more immediate concerns about the centre’s changing local uses and users.

It marks the effective decommissioning of the original artworks, not by physically removing them but by transforming them instead into new objects (that in this case are themselves probably only marking time before a new vision is overlaid). I’m speculating of course, in the absence of data. However, this family of objects seem equally absent from the documented plans for the mall. (…Please do get in touch if you can add to or correct any information about the history of these sculptures!)

The decommissioning of public artworks is not uncommon, although more usually conceived as physical dismantling or removal, after some lengthy period of tenure in a fixed location.  An example of decommissioning now playing out in Melbourne demonstrates an unusually rapid turnover between artwork installation and removal for an artwork not conceived as temporary or ephemeral, one occasioned by a public backlash against the work and the commissioning agent (the City of Darebin).

[For comment and images, see: Crikey (The Urbanist 15/8/13), Crikey (The Urbanist, 20/8/13), The Age (20/8/13), The Herald Sun (20/8/13), Herald Sun Leader (14/8/13), Herald Sun Leader (15/8/13),  Victoria Walks (Facebook), Mysterious Metal Pyramids of High St Northcote (Facebook), Esther Anatolitis (Twitter), Black Mark, etc ]

In brief, the Darebin City Council purchased an art installation for a section of High Street, Northcote, as part of a wider streetscape beautification scheme, along with new street furniture and landscaping, and in conjunction with tram works along route 86. The artwork, designed and manufactured by Syrinx Environmental, consisted of a strip of patterned galvanised steel, folded into raised, angular shapes and laid out along the road’s new, raised median strip.

While counter-narratives appeared, along with evidence of a lack of local consultation by the Council in selecting and installing the work, a discourse of safety prevailed in published comment on the piece, entrenching the work as spiky, pointed and dangerous to the life and limb of cyclists and pedestrians. Just over one week after it was installed, Council voted to remove the work altogether.

(I can’t help but wonder if complaints about that work might have been as much about the increasing range of barriers appearing in Melbourne streets to impede pedestrians and cyclists from moving freely across the road except at controlled points, as with the new, raised platform and fenced tram stops across Melbourne.)

Research Symposium: The Uses of Art in Public Space

A free public research symposium.

Hosted by RMIT University’s Design Research Institute, convened by Quentin Stevens

Tuesday 12 March 2013, 9am – 5pm

Design Hub (RMIT Building 100)
Corner Victoria and Swanston Street
Carlton VIC 3053
(RMIT University, Melbourne city campus map)

Since public art’s emergence as a distinct form of art practice in the late 1960s, the subsequent explosion in its varieties of medium, form and location has prompted multi-disciplinary research into its conception, production and reception. Most existing research into public art has focused on the aesthetic, cultural and political intentions and processes that shape its production. What remains relatively under-studied is how various kinds of public art are actually received by the public, and the material landscape within which that reception occurs. There is too little empirical analysis of artworks’ actual ‘use’, which may not be discursive, and which may not be as the artist or sponsor intended. This symposium examines public artworks from the perspective of their everyday use. We take public art in a broad sense to include commissioned and unofficial artworks, memorials, street art, advertising, and street furniture.

Presentations by:

  • Jane Rendell University College London, UK
  • Christopher Rawlinson and Mirko Guaralda Queensland University of Technology
  • Mat de Koning and Tim Yuen Skate Sculpture, WA
  • Anton Hasell Artist
  • Karen A. Franck New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA
  • Quentin Stevens RMIT University
  • Shanti Sumartojo Australian National University
  • Julia Lossau University of Bremen, Germany
  • Kate MacNeill University of Melbourne
  • Lachlan MacDowall Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne

plus closing panel discussion.

Attendance is free, but all attendees must register in advance by emailing Quentin.Stevens@rmit.edu.au
No later than Monday 25 February with the subject line ATTEND SYMPOSIUM.
Further programme particulars will follow.

This symposium is generously supported by the following:
Australian Research Council
RMIT Design Research Institute
RMIT Foundation International Research Exchange Fellowship

News from the end of the world

…Well not really, unless you subscribe to the dire predictions linked to the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December (otherwise known as the December solstice). Personally, I think I might celebrate “the End of the World” (or at least the beginning of a new era) at one of Adelaide’s newest artist-run galleries, Fontanelle, which is marking the occasion with an exhibition of the same name…

Queen Victoria Statue 11 Dec 2012  Queen Victoria Statue 11 Dec 2012

In Adelaide, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to see Queen Victoria looking a little less stern than usual; a result of the Adelaide City Council’s invitation to local knitters to “yarn up” the city’s central Victoria Square. (The bronze statue was originally unveiled in the Square in 1894 and now stands at the centre of both the Square and a busy traffic island, looked over since 2002 by an imposing Aboriginal flag. Cast in London from a model by Charles Bell Birch, a matching bronze statue of Victoria apparently stands in the Indian city of Oodeypore.)

The South Australian state government agency Arts SA has recently announced Unexpected City,  a new program of grants of up to $20,000 to enable South Australian artists to enliven the CBD’s “streets, parks and laneways” (deadline 18 January 2013).  It complements the upcoming, second season of Adelaide City’s Splash program that also seeks to foster temporary urban activities. Both the Splash and Unexpected City programs essentially aim to encourage people to spend more time in the CBD. I confess to a knee-jerk response, however, to the prevalence of the words enliven, animation, and vibrancy in the promotional material. It is fascinating to see the reproduction across Australian capital cities of efforts to facilitate creative “pop up” enterprises, to appropriate street art, and to generate new temporary artworks, especially in laneways… on the other hand, it would be nice to also see some broader discussion of the potential audiences involved (or left out) in the reimagination of “our” CBDs.

In other Australian funding news, the Victorian state premier Ted Baillieau this week announced the launch of a new Public Sculpture Fund. Over the next two years, the fund will provide $1m towards “the commissioning and/or installation of new public sculpture, of all forms” throughout the state of Victoria (deadline 15 February 2013).

…A reminder that February also brings the International Sculpture Center’s annual conference, the International Sculpture Symposium to Auckland, New Zealand (11-15 February 2013). Registrants to the conference receive a free tour to Gibbs Farm, a private sculpture park that includes monumental commissions by artists: “Graham Bennett, Chris Booth, Daniel Buren, Bill Culbert, Neil Dawson, Marijke de Goey, Andy Goldsworthy, Ralph Hotere, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt, Len Lye, Russell Moses, Peter Nicholls, Eric Orr, Tony Oursler, George Rickey, Peter Roche, Richard Serra, Kenneth Snelson, Richard Thompson, Leon van den Eijkel and Zhan Wang”.

Other upcoming events for 2013 include:

TOUCH: Sculpture and the Land

The TOUCH program builds on Canberra’s 100 year history as a planned capital, to explore some of the issues associated with sculpture commissions. Involving the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian National University (ANU) School of Art, and a range of other organisations, the program includes visiting artists-in-residence, exhibitions, new commissions, walks, talks, and tours of existing collections.

An international Symposium will also be held, 10-12 May 2013, at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in partnership with the ANU School of Art and Humanities Research Centre, RSHA. With a keynote address by Vivien Lovell, the symposium aims to:

examine the work, the people and the conversation around sculpture in Canberra and set it in a national/international context. Themes will elaborate on issues raised in the exhibitions, the history with commissioned permanent and temporary work for public spaces, environmental considerations, community interaction with the wide range of contemporary sculpture activity and its role in the creation of urban spaces and stimulating public imagination.

Call for Papers: 6th State of Australian Cities Conference

Tuesday 26 – Friday 29 November 2013
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney, NSW

Abstracts are now invited for the interdisciplinary State of Australian Cities Conference, under one of the following broad themes: City economy; City social (people and place, population change and trends, migration, cultural inclusion, social polarisation, equity and disadvantage, housing issues, the healthy city, sport and recreation); City environment; City structure; City governance; or City movement.

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: 25 February 2013
Further informationhttp://www.soacconference.com.au/

City of Melbourne Public Art Commissions 2013

Call for Expressions of Interest from artists/teams

Just passing on this Call for EOIs from the Melbourne City Council. The City is inviting proposals for public projects within the municipality up to the value of $70,000:

The City of Melbourne invites Australian-based artists and/or creative teams to propose innovative, contemporary projects for the 2013 round of Public Art Commissions.

In a new approach, we also want to hear from building owners and occupiers who would like to host a public art commission. All commissioned works will be temporary and funded by the City of Melbourne. […]

Artists are advised to attend the public information briefing on Tuesday 18 September from 6-7pm at City Library. Register your attendance and download all submissions forms and guidelines at melbourne.vic.gov.au/publicart 

Deadline: Friday 2 November 2012 at 5.30pm
Further information: City of Melbourne Public Art Program, publicart@melbourne.vic.gov.au , tel 03 9658 9658.