THIS troublesome, uncomfortable and questionable RELEVANCE of ART IN PUBLIC SPACE. In Search Of a Possible Paradigm



Chantal Mouffe

In this presentation my aim is to examine how critical artistic practices could contribute to the fostering of agonistic public spaces where the current neo-liberal hegemony can be challenged. After introducing the main tenets of my theoretical approach, I will discuss different ways of envisaging radical politics and contrast the strategy of ‘war of position’ (Gramsci) with the strategy of exodus advocated by post-operaist thinkers. I will argue that the hegemonic strategy is better suited to grasp the plurality of spaces where artistic interventions should take place. Indeed it shows the importance of combining the new forms of artistic activism with interventions within the more traditional institutional sites instead of abandoning that terrain on the ground that it does not allow any room for practices of resistance

Maria Papadimitriou
Performance: OVER! LEFTOVER

The aim of this workshop is to involve the residents of the Lower Town with the artists from the Academy and the Batycki. The workshop will be based on the notion of recycling “left-over” fabrics and leather remnants from the factory to design and create the new-travellers’ bag. The workshop works on the notion of recycling of fabric, women working (ergasia oikonomia), – what the people from the Lower City have to teach us. The local community will invite and share the knowledge of old crafts. We will bring about transference of skills and working material and recycles and share aesthetic values that develop from needs, necessity to the greater public. The anonymous resident will become the educator. The development of aesthetic from the notion of economia with the least to make the most out of the least. The notion of economy of creating out of the designated “nothing”. Also during the workshop we will create the tablecloth for the opening banquet.

We will work on
2)Family values
4)Every day life from leftovers

The performance during the opening of the symposium will be the continuation of the workshop in the space with the participation of the public and the organisation of the room for the dinner.

Claire Doherty

In 2012, Situations produced one of the primary public art projects as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad – Alex Hartley’s Nowhereisland ( The artist staged the audacious act of geological displacement – transporting an Arctic island from the High Arctic to South West England and in doing so, declaring the island a new nation with citizenship open to all. Profiled alongside the pyrotechnics of outdoor events, large-scale opening ceremonies and spectactor sports, the project might well have become subsumed as another Olympic summer festival, but something quite different emerged. Citizen marches appeared on cliff tops to welcome the alien nation; 23,000 people from over 135 countries across the world contributed to forming the nation’s constitution; the island was no desert island, but instead grey, resistant to visitors, barren and unfamiliar territory; the island did not remain in one place for long, at once fervently anticipated and soon after leaving a sense of melancholy; and finally the island was dispersed, the utopian promise of a new nation came to an end.
As a project which tested the conventional associations of where and when public art takes place, Nowhereisland offers an example of how public art is emerging as a mutli-faceted artform across time and space, experienced both remotely and locally, directed and co-authored. In this brief statement, I will outline some of the possible implications for the future for public art from a project which saw us starting a new nation.

Barbara Holub
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Strategies of Collaboration

On the basis of three projects (More Opportunities / Plymouth, 2006/2007, The Blue Frog Society / several locations / ongoing, and Commons Come to Liezen / Liezen, 2011) I will show strategies of collaboration by creating performative settings for urban interventions.
A major interest of my work as an artist and transparadiso’s work as a collaborative practice in between art, architecture and urban intervention is to place the transdisciplinary role of artistic /urban practices as equal “players” in processes of urban issues and urban development on a durational level and to develop new tools for „direct urbanism“. In the research project Planning Unplanned (Institute of Art and Design, Vienna University of Technology) we investigate, how these practices can contribute to developing the new role of the „urban practitioner“ and counteract neo-liberal interests.

More Opportunities, staged demonstration, Plymouth Art Center, 2006


Mika Hannula

My claim here with this talk is that while I keep insisting on the importance of constantly returning to the localized and committed need to participate in the production of content of concepts (sign, symbol, image or act), I am able to proceed with addressing the central issues (politics, identity and public space, especially how the effect one another) with new performative impulses, different takes of intensity and challenging rhythms. It is about the move from static social imaginary towards self-reflective and active social imagination – a move from a stable space into the acts of becoming a place.
This is then a strategy as in a situated and non-naive local participation on a long tradition of discourses as in plural. It is an act of participatory articulation on discussions that certainly come from somewhere, are manifested currently at certain different ways and which then must keep on keeping on and evolving towards something else. My hope is to push these things somewhere, little by little, to shake that complex bag of issues and to make us move, to deke and dangle (to borrow two terms from a very specific vernacular practice) us into yet partly unknown perspectives and acts of balancing.
One of the main propositions of my talk is to claim that we have to be able to both accept this task and take seriously the inherent character of concepts such as politics, identity and public space. A characteristic that is not something neutral, solid and given. Instead, we need to recognize and cherish how the content of any concept is constructed, contested, conflictual and contextual.
What’s more, consequently, it is about circumstances and processes that are by necessity at least partly confusing but also hopefully filled with compassionate participation. It is about hearts and minds. Not either or, but in immediate direct and intensively tight combination. It is about the need to keep going on two different but always connected paths of inquiry, linking and generating the interplay between addressing the same issue from the more theoretical perspective (minds) and then again at the same time from a more experience based view (hearts) – and not only creating sites where they are co-existing but insisting on ways of how each side affects one another.

Cecilia Alemani

Since its opening in 2009, the High Line has been attracting millions of visitors every year. It was born out of the vision of a few members of the local community, but in less than 3 years it has become a major tourist attraction for the City of New York. What does it mean to have an art program in one of the most visited destinations in New York City? Alongside the challenges usually connected to the organizing art in the public realm, High Line Art faces unusual problems, such as overcrowding, with almost 4 million visitors every year; a location in the heart of the Chelsea and in close relationship with the art district, but an audience which is not an art audience; a highly designed park, where architecture and planting design have the predominant role; and an interesting phenomenon of “spontaneous art” that pops up around the park. How do you commission art in Chelsea without thinking of the art audience? How do artists conceive artworks that will be seen by 4 million people? How do you fit a sculpture on a very narrow path?
My presentation will focus on High Line Art, the program of public art promoted by Friends of the High Line, which takes place on and around the High Line. I will introduce the High Line with some background information, historical facts and recent developments and changes of the neighborhood surrounding the High Line since the park opened in 2009. I will then give an overview of the art program, with its challenges and unusual context.

Fulya Erdemci

After 1989, in the last couple of decades, together with the mega global changes and transformations in governance and ideology the concept of “public,” thus, the role of art institutions has been shifted drastically. Furthermore, the understanding, raison d’etre and aim of “public art” has been changed, signified in neologisms like “art in public domain,” “art in civic space” or “art as public space,” etc. While “public art” is a legacy of the welfare state with the conviction that art can be used as a tool for the well being of its citizens, “art in public domain” is an emancipated autonomous form of contemporary art originated in the late 50s as a part of the institutional critique when artists left the museums and galleries to go out to the streets to situate art in the hearth of life. While public art is subsidized by governments and involved in commissioning, art-in-public domain may or may not be involved in commissioning, instead, may be an artist initiation, and can be supported by public and/or private sources. Unlike “public art,” which conforms to the existing status quo and governmental ideologies and programs, “art in public domain” situates itself critically in the public domain, challenging the status quo, specifically unfolding the socio-political and ideological structures that we all are living in.
Public art, being a legacy of Western social welfare state system is now under pressure and transition, especially in Northern Europe. Taking the Netherlands as an example, it can be observed that the already existing funding and collaboration structure has been changed, and the ‘public art’ or ‘art in public domain’ becomes only possible under the support of private enterprise or PAP (Public and Private) collaborations. This brings out the question of distribution: whose taste or preferences are being distributed? What is the role of artist and curator as critical agents? How can art avoid being instrumentalized by marketing and politics? Or instrumentalization of publics? How can we rethink art’s role in public domain today?

Tone Hansen

The social responsibility of the art institutions has been on the agenda since the ‘70s when many argued that museums ought to much more actively cultivate their audience. Relatively quickly, the institution’s role evolved from being a place with classic museal functions—acquisition, conservation, research, and exhibition—to being a place with great emphasis on the development of a larger audience. The museum’s pedagogical objectives have evolved from being closely connected to the curator’s exhibition making and research work to necessitating independent departments within the museum, separated from the curators’ and conservators’ activities.
From an architectural historic perspective, one notes that differing ideological approaches have also had a significant impact on museum architecture. One example clearly illustrates the emergence of the pedagogical function: In 1979 the Sprengel Museum opened in Hannover. Its extensive educational and public outreach programs were keyed into the building from its inception, so that by the time its doors opened, the education department was centrally located in the building’s well-lit third floor.
Today the museum is facing a third possible role – that of the private interest. Museums are judged by the use of economical terms, visitors numbers, ability of raising its income etc. Also in architecture – museum buildings become corporate bodies. Today all museum leaders are struggling with the three models.
Tone Hansen will in her remarks talk about the challenges facing the museum as institution today in regards to the possibility of forming (temporary) communities and will through two concrete examples, the research project Modernims Machine, as well as the exhibition Learing for Life, talk about ways of collaborating within the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. Basis for her discussion is the changed role of the art institution in neo liberal society.

Simon Sheikh
INTERVENTION, INTERRUPTION, DISRUPTION, PAUSE. Possible Approaches to Artistic and Curatorial Strategies and Tactics to Public Art in the Post-Public Condition.

Whereas the public sphere has often been seen as either under threat or deconstruction, or as a phantom, a specter, this talk will look at the public understood as a post-public, indicating a meditation and modulation of its basic historical features, ideological as imaginary. The question will be how a public can be imagined, and thus produced and addressed by specific artistic forms and institutional bodies, if the public sphere does not exist as such, but only in the form of its after-life(s), as a post-public, as a groundless ground upon which to stand and take a stand. Rather than thinking of new institutional forms, such as a museum without walls or beyond the confines and histories of the museum, which would only lead to a musealization of the world, the focus will be artistic gestures of intervention and interruption, of unexpected appearance that does not trade under the name and institution of art, and thus acts like brief encounters with a potential, if unintentional public, as surprising disruptions and moments to pause. This raises questions of what it means to see something, and thus to say something, and it calls into question both the parameters of art production and art viewing. Can such moments of puncture lead to the ungrounding of experience and sense of produced space as seamless reality? Can it lead it us from the dead-end of the social as a ground towards a politics of the horizon?

Mel Chin
We STILL need to discuss MONEY

Mel Chin will presents two major projects: Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project is a nation-wide program that seeks to exchange the creative value of drawn currency, literally by the people, for actions and solutions to prevent childhood lead poisoning. The Potential Project is a new intervention for the displaced refugees of the Western Sahara that envisions the first currency in the world to utilize the artistic expressions of its generations (child, teen to adult) to guide its design and to have its value backed by the power of the sun.

Mirjam Varadinis

I have always been interested in experimenting with art breaking out of the museum walls as this offers the possibility to bring art to unusual spaces and to open up new perspectives on both art and the environment we live in. Thus the notion of “museum without museum” plays an important role for my curatorial practice.
In my presentation I’d like to reflect on the challenges and possible traps one has to consider when leaving the white cube, especially since city marketing strategists have discovered art in the public space as a tool for their campaigns. Using two exhibitions as case studies I will discuss the problematic terms of “public space” and “participation” and sketch out ways of how art can still have a life on its own and an impact.
The case studies I will present are on hand the exhibition “Shifting Identities” that I curated at Kunsthaus Zürich in summer 2008 ( and on the other hand “TRACK”, a large-scale, city-wide international group exhibition in Ghent I have curated with Philippe Van Cauteren (director of SMAK, Ghent) this summer (

Bert Theis

The name Isola Art Center comes from the Isola neighbourhood in Milan, where the Center is operating since 2001. The story of Isola Art Center comprises three phases. For the first two years it operated with no permanent venues, overlapping with diverse neighbourhood events. Later, it worked for five years with a space, squatting 1500 square metres in an abandoned factory (a ’Dirty Cube‘). For the following five years, it has been a guest of other friendly spaces throughout the neighbourhood (the ’Dispersed Center’).
Since 2001, the inhabitants of the Isola neighbourhood have engaged in the defence of their only public space, the Stecca degli artigiani and the nearby park, doomed to be privatized, constructed and gentrified. In the same year began Isola Art Project with the first interventions in contemporary art. Since 2003, the association Isola dell’Arte occupied the second floor of the Stecca, a former factory and started working towards a Center for Contemporary Art.
From 2003 to 2007 the Center has been cooperating with the neighbourhood associations to convert former industrial building Stecca and the two nearby parks in a Center for Art and Community Life. The exhibition space on the second floor has allowed artists, critics, curators, philosophers, and inhabitants in general, to create Milan’s most dynamic situation of contemporary artistic research. Isola Art Center was officially inaugurated in 2005 by provincial government’s cultural delegate Daniela Benelli.
In April 2007 the city government and real estate multinational Hines have cleared the Stecca, evicting Isola Art Center and the craftspeople and associations, subsequently proceeding to the demolition of the building and a partial destruction of the Center’s collection. The operation was aimed at delivering the Stecca and park to the corporation, so as to develop new buildings summing up to over 90.000 m3. The latest project for the area, signed by Boeri Studio, involves underground parking lots, luxury dwellings and two tree-covered towers called ‘vertical forest’ in place of the present park, added to the construction of a 30.000 m3 building with parking lots, offices and a shopping mall to be built by the Italian Ligresti group.
Having lost the battle to preserve the Stecca and the parks, Isola Art Center’s reaction was to adapt itself to the new situation, and to shift from being a Dirty Cube to the idea of a Dispersed Art Center hosted by friendly sites in the neighborhood, like shops, bars, a restaurant, a bookshop, cultural associations and private spaces. From 2007 to 2012 this new form of presence has made it possible for us to be more active in the life of the zone, as compared to the past. Thanks to the Isola Rosta Project the Center used the security gates of storefronts as a new exhibition site, allowing art and criticism of urban projects to be displayed in public space. The dispersed center is currently aiming at fulfilling its fight-specific objectives, denouncing gentrification processes and collaborating with the new Isola Pepe Verde movement to gain a self-managed green community area and to make the dream of having a center for art and for the neighborhood come true. | Isola on facebook

The Milan Complaints Choir, performance during Public Turbulence 2009, presented by Matteo Lucchetti (after an idea of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen), photo Bert Theis


Joanna Warsza
Performative projects in the public realm of Berlin, Warsaw and Tbilisi

In recent few years I have curated public art that examine social and political agendas in post-soviet, post-communist, and post-cold war countries. Each of those works not only enabled a context-related understanding of the particular place but also of the historical and present circumstances shaping them. I will bring examples of chosen sites and artists interventions, which mirror specific political, social and cultural ideas, ideologies or sets of rules and will question what capacities art has to respond, contextualize the public realm and perhaps bring the social change.
The first case is a derelict communist stadium built with the ruins of Warsaw after the II World War, turned in the 90ies into an early, anarchic capitalist market and lately into the National Stadium for the Euro 2012 Football Championship. Between 2006-2008 I have commissioned projects with artists, archaeologists, architects and botanists who responded to the site heterogeneity, its self-organised mechanism, the invisibility of the Vietnamese minority, and the lack of a critical debate on Poland’s post- war architectural legacy.
The second will be Tbilisi’s incredible building of Ministry of Highways, based on what Yona Friedman would call Utopie réalisable fusioning the concepts of formal and informal architecture. I worked with a number of artists, architects and researchers, who responded to the state of exception of this building and its possible secondary uses, and the sustainable and self-organizing parallel policies omnipresent in Caucasus. The local reflection on vernacular and informal turned out to inspire the progressive cultural and architectural discourses of today.
Finally I will reflect on the much debated Berlin Biennale, and particularly on the installation Piece Wall be Nada Prlja. The Macedonian artist erected a solid wall blocking Friedrichstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg, visualising social and economic inequalities and referring to what is called in the German debate the ‚parallel societies’. Prlja decided to act against the audience, refused any mediation and the politically correct participatory agenda. Her art became an obstacle for local traders and inhabitants – and by this provoked and enabled many discussions on the public forum. One of the main questions stemming from the project was whether such art that seemingly acts against its own audience, in fact acting mostly for them?
Examples like this with their specific political, social and economic contexts ask whether art in public realm can have any anticipatory, critical and anticommercial potential in shaping future cities. Can art influence our understanding of civic practices, challenge the public, and produce perhaps troublesome relevance?

BONIEK! A One-man Re-enactment of the 1982 Poland-Belgium Football Match by MassimoFurlan, commentary by Tomasz Zimoch, 10-th Anniversary Stadium Warsaw, October 2007