On behalf of Laznia Centre for Contemporary Arts Adam Budak and Julia Draganović called international artists, critics and curators to discuss THIS Troublesome, Uncomfortable and Questionable RELEVANCE of Art in Public Space at Fabryka Batycki in Gdansk on 23–24 November 2012. This year, on the anniversary of that event, Laznia CCA publishes a book summarizing the symposium.
Art in Public Space, out in the wilderness, so to say. Art beneath its protected context of the exhibition space is uncomfortable for almost everybody. For artists and exhibitors, the amount of unpredictability is sometimes overwhelming: weather and light, humidity and ambient sound can’t be fully controlled. And on top of this, there is the audience! People who often aren’t even aware of encountering an art work.
Sometimes they would probably be very surprised, if someone told them that they are considered to be the audience of something. As a consequence, often enough people confronted with public art feel helpless in front of or even disturbed by what the art world accounts for an important work of art. That happens in exhibition places too, but the advantage is that the museum audience choose this experience deliberately.
So, why bother? Why don’t we just stay inside our protected compound of the gallery? Or at least in a place that is clearly marked as an exhibition space? Why do time-based, immaterial interventions have to happen in public space, why do we have to challenge the public? Artists, curators and institutions have answered this question in very heterogeneous ways over the last decades: Public art was and is seen as non-commercial, as anti-elitist, as the attempt to embellish even poorly designed living environments, as an opportunity for a broader audience, which does not have the means to frequent museums or galleries, to access contemporary art, and many believe that public art has the power to change urban and social systems.
These are ambitious goals for such a doubtlessly difficult enterprise as public art. Beside the above quoted problems of public art activities, one has to take issues like economical inequity, uneven knowledge -distribution and tiredness of common participatory practices summoned by current democratic systems into account. Because one thing goes without saying: public art can’t be carried out in solitude; interaction and collaboration are part of its nature.
In the eight years of its existence, The Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk has invited 31 artists to propose interventions in the public realm, has judged 8 projects worth to be realized and has produced 5 of them. The curators and architects, invited by Laznia Center for Contemporaty Art to be involved in the long term development of the Lower Town area of the City of Gdansk, feel that the moment has come to present the first results of their activities to a broader national and international audience and to bring together debates from varied perspectives and practices in an attempt to evaluate which roles artists, curators, designers and architects can actually play in revitalizing and regenerating urban space.
For the book Jadwiga Charzynska, The Director of Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, introduces the work of The Outdoor Gallery of The City of Gdansk from its start to the current state. Agnieszka Wolodźko presents a survey of public art in Gdansk of the last decades.
The order of the further essays presented here follows the structure of the homonymous symposium that took place in Gdansk on 23 to 24 November 2012. The essays are elaborated versions of the oral contributions of those lecturers who were able to participate in this publication project, which was done in a few-month period only. We are proud that Chantal Mouffe, keynote speaker of the symposium, accounts for a reflection about Critical Artistic Practices as Counter-Hegemonic Interventions. Mika Hannula agreed to reprint chapter two of his book Politics, Identity and Public Space (Expodium 2) titled Social Imaginaries. Hannula’s contributions serves background for a series of texts dealing with Close Encounters. Strategies of Collaboration for which artists Mel Chin and Barbara Holub as well as curators Julia Draganović, Aneta Szylak and Joanna Warsza give examples of best practice models regarding questions like: What are the strategies to access existing knowledge systems and to foster collaboration between different stakeholders?
In the second section, entitled Museum without Museum. Tactics of Emancipation and Autonomy, curator Claire Doherty and artists Maria Papadimitriou and Berth Theis ponder the question of how far public art can be a complement or an alternative to museums and reflecting on strategies of enhancement for self-organization.
The book is published within the framework of The Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk project realised by Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdansk. The project supported by The National Centre for Culture within the framework of its programme Culture – Interventions