New Year, old resolutions

Welcome to 2015 and my first post for the year, hope the year is a good one for you and yours…

I won’t ask you to listen to a recitation of my New Year’s resolutions (which, for anyone that’s heard them before, would likely be the same as those of recent years). I have, however, managed to spend some time over the last couple of weeks clearing out old emails and journal alerts. It’s progress of a sort!

For your browsing pleasure (?), here’s the collection of (mainly) 2014 publications that emerged from that process – in no particular order, the ones I thought I should have read, should read sometime soon, or should otherwise put aside for future reference (i.e. these are the one’s I didn’t see last year, it’s neither a comprehensive list of 2014 publications, nor a critical favourites or “must read” list – and if you think I’m looking for public art in all the wrong places, I hope you’ll feel free to share your own suggestions!) :


Journal Special Issues

Journal articles

Public Art, Public Sculpture

Contemporary Art

Public Space

Urban Space, Urban Design, Regeneration & Renewal

Public Sphere

Memory, Commemoration

SPATIAL Practices….

Policy, Discourse, Method…


Research Workshop – Public Space and Commemoration

Quentin Stevens has forwarded notice of a free two day research workshop, Public Space and Commemoration, to be held in Canberra on 21-22 February. Further information below, including essential registration details.

(Watch this space for information about a related symposium to be held at RMIT University in Melbourne on 12 March 2013.)

Two-Day Research Workshop: Public Space and Commemoration

21 February  2013 (11am-5pm) and 22 February 2013 (9.30am-5pm)

in connection with the ANU Humanities Research Centre 2013 Visiting Fellowship Program’s Annual Theme: Cities, Imaginaries, Publics

Convenor: Quentin Stevens, RMIT University

Location: Humanities Research Centre, Sir Roland Wilson Building #120, ANU, Canberra

This workshop draws together contemporary research in the humanities, social sciences and the design disciplines which looks at the design, use and meaning of public spaces in the particular context of historical commemoration. In contrast to the conventional focus on the meanings that sponsors intend public memorials to convey, such analysis embraces everyday social life around memorials, as well as social practices of commemoration in everyday spaces, and informal, unofficial memorials. From the perspective of design, the symposium will explore how commemorative spaces are shaped through client objectives, competition briefs, juries, and wider planning frameworks. From the perspective of users, it will examine how social memories, meanings and identities are shaped within urban spaces, through commemorative practices and other narratives of collective identity, as well as informal everyday uses. These issues are particularly relevant to the everyday life and the form of Canberra’s own urban spaces, which are strongly influenced by the presence of both national and local memorials, particularly during the centenary of Canberra and the upcoming centenary of ANZAC.

The workshop will include formal presentations, discussion of a set of circulated readings, roundtable discussions, and a field trip to several Canberra memorials.

Speakers include:

  • SueAnne Ware, RMIT University: Memorial Camels: Design by Committee
  • Russell Rodrigo, University of New South Wales: Whose Memorial is it Anyway?: Re-Thinking Client-centred Design in Public Commemoration
  • Quentin Stevens, RMIT University: Memorial masterplanning in Berlin, London and New York
  • John Stephens, Curtin University: Memory, Forgetting and Trauma in Australian War Memorials
  • Julia Lossau, University of Bremen, Germany: Affirmation and Division: Shaping the Image of the New Gorbals in Glasgow
  • Shanti Sumartojo, Australian National University: Public art and the construction of national identity

Attendance is free, but all attendees must register in advance by emailing:

no later than Monday 11 February with the subject line MEMORIALS WORKSHOP

Registered participants will receive lunches and transport for the field trip and will also be emailed a short packet of relevant readings in advance of the workshop.
Late registrations may be accepted but those who register late will have to arrange their own catering and transport.

Questions about the workshop can be directed to:

This workshop is generously supported by the following:
Humanities Research Centre, ANU
Australian Research Council
RMIT Foundation International Research Exchange Fellowship
RMIT Design Research Institute

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

The position of Postdoctoral Research Fellow is currently being advertised at the School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University, Melbourne
Deadline for applications: 10 December 2012
[Source: s-architecture  ]

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship available within RMIT University’s School of Architecture and Design (Quentin Stevens)

A position for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow is available within RMIT University’s School of Architecture and Design.  The fellow will work alongside Dr Quentin Stevens in connection with a major ARC-funded project exploring the design and public perception of contemporary memorials and other public artworks. The post would suit someone with a PhD in open space design, human-environment relations, or urban geography. Experience in the publication of academic research is desirable. The post is research-only and is available full-time from now until early 2015.

for more information, and to apply, go to:

Quentin Stevens

Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow
School of Architecture and Design
RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia

Reader in Urban Design
Bartlett School of Planning
University College London

Men in Bronze (3), Tokyo

Also hidden away amongst the summer foliage is the statue of Prince Arisugawa Taruhito (1835-95), created in 1903 by Ōkuma Ujihiro and originally located in front of Army General Staff buildings. In 1962 it was relocated to the Arisugawa no miya Memorial Park. The name of the park marks the Arisugawa no miya branch of the imperial household, which ended with the death of Prince Arisugawa no miya Takehito in 1913. The site had been donated to the Tokyo metropolitan authorities for use as a public park in 1934 by a younger half-brother, Prince Terunomiya Nobuhito who had an interest in children’s recreation and education. The park was handed over to the Minato ward municipal authorities in 1975.


I suspect I may have now exhausted the surviving equestrian statues of Meiji imperial military leaders in the city centre, but will keep you posted!

Sven Saaler, a historian based in Tokyo, suggests that Japan’s first commemorative bronze depiction of a person seated on horseback is the 1898 statue of Lord Mouri Tadamasi in a park in Yamaguchi (in western Japan). Saaler’s personal website includes fascinating images documenting the drawings and prospectus soliciting funds for the Yamaguchi commission, the regulations of the organizing committee, local reporting of the event and subsequent postcards.

More generally, Saaler offers a fantastic resource for historical and contemporary research (or browsing) with an online collection of images of pre- and post-war Japanese statues drawn from photographs, postcards, and lithographs.

I believe that an independent organisation, the Japan Institute for the Survey and Conservation of Outdoor Sculpture may have undertaken, or at least proposed, a comprehensive survey of outdoor sculpture in Japan, but am yet to track down any details. The Institute was founded in June 1997 “by sculptors, conservators, conservation scientists, staff of local government organizations, and art historians… to prompt local government and other organizations that own outdoor sculptures throughout Japan to appropriately manage these works that are often neglected in their current conditions” (Tanaka Shuji).

If undertaken, the survey would provide an interesting complement to the 1999-2001 national survey of memorial monuments by Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology (partly reported on by Hirochika Nakamaki in 2005 in the English language book chapter Memorial Monuments of Interrupted Lives in Modern Japan: From Ex Post Facto Treatment to Intensification Devices).

I’ll spare you further listing of the other prewar men in bronze around Tokyo I’ve discovered (for now at least) but suffice to say there are more!

And I think I’ll also have to leave you wondering for now about the abundant evidence of postwar taste in smaller scale, mainly female, neo-classical nude figures in stone and bronze that seems to have largely replaced commemorative statuary in the urban landscape. (See a discussion of this in the 1993 article by Aoi Shimizu, Sexism in Tokyo’s New Public Art: Preliminary Results from Field ResearchMiddle States Geographer vol 26.)  While this trend overlaps the arrival of outdoor abstract sculptures in city streets and building foyers, not to mention landmark urban development projects incorporating “signature”, site-specific artwork, and everything else in between, the continuing preponderance of figurative, especially nude, sculpture always strikes me as remarkable – its a feature that Julian Worrall, an academic at Waseda University suggests is related to the importance of the Nitten art organization, its annual exhibitions, and influential reach and patronage.

[PS I’ve updated the lost date/sculptor in my earlier post Men in Bronze (2).]

Men in Bronze (2), Tokyo

(Men, horses, and a dog in bronze actually…)

Other pre-war western-style commemorative statues that survive in central Tokyo include that of Prince Kitashirakawa, bronze cast in 1903 by the artist Shinkai Taketarō (1868-1927). Hidden among trees near the Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art in Kitanomaru Park, facing the Imperial Palace, Michael Lucken notes this statue originally stood nearby at the entrance to the barracks of the 1st and 2nd Imperial Guard regiments (Remodelling Public Space: The Fate of War Monuments 1945-48).

Close by, at the northern entrance to Kitanomaru Park is also the equestrian statue of Prince Ōyama Iwao (for which I am yet to determine a date or sculptor!). [UPDATE: according to the Chiyoda Tourist Association, this was erected in November 1919 and was also produced by Shinkai Taketarō.]

Continuing the theme of imperial military leaders astride horses that find themselves in heavily treed locations, is the statue of Prince Komatsu no Miya Akihito in Ueno Park, sculpted by  Okuma Ujihiro and dedicated in 1912.

Okuma also sculpted the 1893 statue of army officer Ōmura Masujirō at Yasakuni Shrine, founded in 1869 to enshrine the souls of those who fought and died for the Japanese Government. (Although not named Yasakuni until 1879).  Ōmura is reputed to be Japan’s first cast bronze statue in the Western style. Like Lucken, Julie Higashi also stresses that the statue is remarkable for having survived intact and in its original location since 1893 (see ‘The Spirit of War Remains Intact: the Politics of Space in Tokyo and the Yasakuni Shrine’, in Stefan Goebel and Derek Keene eds. Cities into Battlefields: Metropolitan Scenarios, Experiences and Commemorations of War, 2011).

Higashi notes that Ōmura is also remarkable for the symbolism of its location. Positioned at the centre between two gateways that lead to the Shrine, the statue sits between the shrine and the Imperial Palace, reflecting loyalty to a State firmly anchored in the Imperial throne (p 206).


The third such important statue in Tokyo’s landscape (along with those of Kusunoki Masashige and Ōmura Masujirō) is that of Saigō Takamori at Ueno Park. The sculptor is Takamura Kōun and the statue was dedicated in 1898.


Both Saigō and Ōmura are commemorated as having sided with Imperial forces during the civil war that led to the Meiji restoration. Saigō is shown with his dog, a feature that led to particular controversy at the statue’s unveiling in 1898. According to Aaron Skabelund in Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan and the Making of the Modern World (as reviewed in the Japan Times), Saigō’s favourite dog happened to be a Western breed. The criticism heaped upon an early model of the dog for its similarities to a Chinese breed, however, led the sculptor to recast the dog with “pointy ears” to look suitably Japanese…

Skabelund notes that the dog’s Chinese appearance was seen as a, “stain on the dignity of the newly canonized national hero [and] bore ugly traces of a popular chauvinism that the Sino-Japanese War had recently stirred into a frenzy.”

A similar tale of anxiety about national identity is associated with the representation of Hachiko, the dog first immortalised at the entrance to Shibuya  station in 1934. Hachiko (an Akita dog, a breed from the north of Japan), famously waited every day at Shibuya station for the return of his master from work, continuing to wait for another nine years after the man’s death. A series of newspaper articles and publications  led to the story being used as a popular example to children about faithfulness, even becoming a national symbol of loyalty to the imperial institution.

Saito Hirokichi, the self-appointed promoter and guardian of “purebred” Japanese dogs, raised funds for the original statue and insisted on depicting Hachiko with both ears upright, arguing this is how a pedigree should look. The artist refused and Hachiko’s floppy left ear was immortalized. (Japan Times)

Hachiko is an example of a statue that was recycled for its metal during World War II. However, a committee formed after the war to sponsor its return, commissioning the son of the original artist to recreate the sculpture.  Hachiko returned to Shibuya in 1948.

Men in Bronze, Tokyo

A change of pace from my recent events listings..

Leaving Melbourne’s gloomy weather behind at the beginning of this week, I’d been looking forward to a change of scene. Of course, I’d forgotten how terrible the summer weather can be in Japan, necessitating that every walk involves water bottles, sunscreen, hats and sun umbrellas – not to mention the ever handy towel for (politely) wiping off the accumulating sweat. As I plan to do a lot of walking around Tokyo this month, this has been a rude reminder!

One focus of my wandering is Tokyo’s many parks and gardens (and the artworks therein). While many include the ubiquitous vending machines dispensing drinks and ice creams, alongside toilets and shaded seating areas, I suspect its only the tourists to the capital (foreign and Japanese) who are crazy enough to be walking around gardens in the middle of the day… (Formal garden spots often include “rest centres” as a welcome refuge from the weather, offering postcards, souvenirs, and airconditioning.)

A trip to the Imperial Palace East Gardens (a gated park with restricted opening hours), and more especially the Outer Gardens, however, does highlight the importance of parks to the local population. At the end of the working day, as the heat of the sun dissipates, a steady stream of people emerge …not that you can tell this mind you, from my photo below of the statue in the Imperial Palace Plaza (Outer Gardens) taken at 5.30pm, and looking suspiciously devoid of humans, like most documentary photos.

According to Thomas Haven’s fascinating history of Japanese public green spaces, Parkscapes, the Imperial Palace Plaza (1889) along with Ueno Park (1876) were the chief public ceremonial spaces for events designed to gain public support for the Sino-Japanese (1894-5) and later Russo-Japanese wars (1904-5), linking state ambitions with the spiritual regulation of the citizenry. However, new parks also became the venues for popular rallies and anti-government demonstrations concerning issues ranging from rising rice prices to labour relations and voting rights.

Ueno was designated a public park in 1873 and formally opened by the Meiji emperor in 1876. The Palace Outer Garden, however, was “formally created in 1940 to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the country’s founding”, and only designated a national people’s park in 1947 under the Allied Occupation (Havens, p125).

The mounted bronze statue shown below is of Kusunoki Masashige, a celebrated 14th century samurai, noted for his devotion to the Emperor. Given the location and the era in which the park was created, its presence is just what you would expect to find. It’s made more remarkable, however, by the story that Michael Lucken tells of the survival of this sculpture (and others like it) in Remodelling Public Space: The Fate of War Monuments 1945-48  (in Sven Saaler & Wolfgang Schwentker eds, The Power of Memory in Modern Japan, 2008):

By the 1940s Japan’s parks and public places were well furnished with European styled commemorative statues. In 1943, when the government  decreed the withdrawal of all bronze statues as a symbolic effort towards encouraging metal collection  (not unlike the removal of historic fencing and railings for the war effort in the UK),  9,236 bronzes were registered. Of these, only 279 were marked for retention. Add to this situation the policies of the postwar occupying forces directed towards separating state and  religion, which led to a series of ministerial directives on the question of funeral ceremonies and commemorative monuments.  In Tokyo,  a Commission of Inquiry of the Removal of War Monuments decided upon the destruction of about twenty statues that had survived the metal cull of 1943, mostly (but not entirely) military heroes associated with the Russo-Japanese War; deciding to spare sculptures representing the Imperial family or relating to the imperial system.  Kusanoki Masashige is one of these, and one of the very few prewar statues in Tokyo that has remained intact and in-situ.

Thumbnails: Photographer,  Ruth Fazakerley, 18 July 2012.
Kusanoki Masashige (1893-1900), bronze; sculptor Takamura Kōun

Kusanoki Masahige Statue  Kusanoki Masahige Statue

Call for submissions: Public Art Dialogue

The latest round of call for submissions for themed issues of the international, peer-reviewed journal Public Art Dialogue, includes the following:

Memorials 2: The Culture of Remembrance

Submission Deadline: 15 September 2012

Traditional memorials celebrated individuals, typically in honor of their royal titles or political roles, their prowess in battle, and occasionally their cultural accomplishments. At some point victims, too, became subjects for commemoration, leading to a conflation of heroes and victims that requires further analysis. With memorials to victims of tragedies like the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building or the destruction that occurred on 9/11, new kinds of heroes emerged, including rescuers such as firefighters and other first responders. Historical memorials were also built to honor abstract values such as peace, (civic) virtue, and abundance, mostly personified by women. More contemporary approaches have included counter memorials, protest interventions, and spontaneous memorials. This issue seeks to explore memorials in regard to their range of subjects, various formal and conceptual strategies, and the critical issues pertaining to their study. We welcome submissions that address related topics (except war or peace, covered in the previous issue) from any time period or place.

Perspectives on Relational Art

Submission Deadline: 1 March 2013
Guest Edited by Eli Robb

Relational art is by nature a public art. It fundamentally depends on social context and audience participation, for its very medium is interaction among people. As Nicolas Bourriaud wrote in Relational Aesthetics, relational art takes “as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space.” The nature and results of such interactions are still open to possibility and interpretation.  In some cases relational art is legitimized as art in advance by its connection to renowned artists and art institutions. Sometimes, however, actions or events that have taken place completely outside the traditional framework of art have been absorbed into the context of art post facto. Whether framed by the fine art space of galleries, theaters or museums, or framed more broadly in the public space of life, the fact that socially engaged practice is discussed as art, rather than, for example, activism or entertainment, in large part defines its cultural scope and importance.  This issue seeks contributions from practitioners, historians, theorists, and curators with diverse perspectives from which to approach a field that is hotly contested with respect to its theory, history, production, and even nomenclature.

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