At a time of increasing publicity and debate around public art, it is crucial we constantly reflect and question our methods and understandings of why and how public art is being commissioned. ixia, the public art think tank, has begun commissioning new critical texts which are available here. These thought provoking essays tackle issues close to the heart of the writers and aim to raise debate and stimulate discussion among you, the readers.
- In A Bird in a Gilded Cage, Clive Parkinson suggests that, in a world where institutional neglect and cruelty towards some of our most vulnerable citizens has been exposed, the arts might offer something of an antidote to the way we support people affected by memory loss.
- In Arts & Culture and Regeneration – Business Improvement Districts: Where the cultural can drive the economic, Caroline Davis analyses the back drop which Business Improvement Districts offer for understanding how the business community are involved in co-financing and commissioning new work, and also looks at the broad background and thoughts on culture-led regeneration in our cities.
- In Stirchley Prospects, artist Jayne Murray and place maker Emma Larkinson, aka Place Prospectors CIC, look back at their project within Stirchley, south Birmingham, describing a self-initiated engagement project they explore how their work has brought about change at a neighbourhood level through artistic interventions.
- EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT, ART: A new year: new opportunities by Eileen Adams looks at how the opportunities which new government policy initiatives might create for art and design education.
- A hidden economy: a critical review of Meanwhile Use by Sue Ball and Ruth Essex, looks at the opportunities and risks of temporary use for the arts, looking at ‘meanwhile use’ agreements and the new types of opportunities, collaborations and the new models for cultural infrastructure and production which they have generated.
- This series of texts were written in response to Plot 16: The Fermenting Room (return of the rhizome), an offsite, temporary public art work by brook & black, commissioned by Modern Art Oxford for the ‘Art in Rose Hill’ Programme.
- Meshworking Cultural Well-Being by David Patten looks at how the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework challenges public art to think again, and how the requirement for ‘cultural well-being’ invites a re-thinking of ‘cultural democracy’ to deliver new understandings of public culture(s).
- Making meaning or ticking boxes – which is cultural education at its best? by Paul Collard analyses the vision for cultural education which Henley sets out in his review of cultural education in England, published in 2012, and explores how rich an education it will provide.
- FCnK by Clive Parkinson explores the relationship between art in the public realm and well-being. He investigates public art’s sometimes superficiality and its occasional potential to question societal norms.
- Public Art and the Art of the Public — After the Creative City by Jonathan Vickery is a short study which aims to assess the current situation of public art in the UK within an urban cultural policy context.
- Also by Jonathan Vickery, The Past and Possible Future of Countermonument looks at the frameworks of thought and practice of ‘countermonument’.
- Mike White: Arts in Health – a new prognosis. In recent years the arts in health field has acquired the expertise to address a wide spectrum of medical, health and social care issues. It has the resilience and resourcefulness to weather the impending health service reforms in an era of austerity. But it will need to adapt conceptually and in delivery to healthcare environments in which patient choice, GP commissioning power and a new public health workforce are the drivers of change.
- Commissioning within a Community: Artist Lee Simmons discusses a South London Cooperative, in relation to public art and the commissioning of schemes during a recession and beyond.
- Dr Begum Basdas, Dr Monica Degen and Professor Gillian Rose‘s report, Learning about how people experience built environments on their research into how people experience the urban environments of Milton Keynes and Bedford. They focus on the methods they used to understand how elements of the built environment – like public artworks – are engaged with by the people using those environments.
- Paul O’Neill‘s Case Study Report – Het Blauwe Huis (The Blue House), 2005-2009, IJburg is a working text produced as part of Locating the Producers research project at Situations, UWE and authored by Paul O’Neill that maps out some of the key issues relating a four-year project called The Blue House (Het Blauwe Huis) in Ijburg, Holland, due for completion at the end of 2009.
- Freee are artists Mel Jordan, Andy Hewitt and Dave Beech. Through a written dialogue, Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out! they introduce their work as a mode of distributing, activating and declaring ideas and challenge us to rethink the role and possibilities of passive, polite spaces that artists continue to quietly and predictably occupy, whether that is in ‘public space’ and/or in a ‘gallery’.
- Artist Loraine Leeson has worked with communities for over 20 years. In her article, Art with Communities: Reflections on a changing landscape, she reflects on how her practice has had to shift in relation to the changing politics from the 70s to the present day – what have we learnt and what can we leave behind?
- Matthew Cornford‘s text, Takin’ it to the Streets, looks at unofficial public realm projects, through the recent work of Mark McGowan, Can Altay and Sam Curtis and addresses the value of working independently and without official support. Matthew is a practising artist and works for the School of Art and Design, University of Wolverhampton.
- Jumping Through Hoops asks if the enthusiastic commitment to justifying art’s role in regeneration does more to perpetuate the illusions of social inclusion and community cohesion through regeneration than it does to effect real change for the communities regeneration purports to be for.
- In an anonymous letter from an artist to a developer, the correspondent outlines the conflicts and frustrations experienced during their public art commission and asks why the project has remained unfinished.
- In his essay, A New Year Provocation for 2008, artist David Patten clears up some confusion over the commissioning of artists in the development process, arguing that keeping artists at one remove from the development process, sheltered by agencies and curators, can add to the sense of unease and mystery over the artist’s role.
ixia is looking for your responses to these texts! If there is something which you would like to say, please email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and title your email ‘Website feedback’. We will add your comments to a new ‘Questions & Comments’ page on the website and we hope that this will generate discussion and give you the opportunity to share your thoughts on public art with others. If you would prefer us not to put your comments online, or would like us to pass your comments on to the author but not to add them to the online discussion, then please indicate this on your e-mail.
We want to expand this collection of texts. If you are interested in writing for us, please email email@example.com or call us on: 0121 753 5301. Send us a short paragraph about yourself and the topic which you would like to write about.