Running across subsidence, following leaks: The ordinary failure of public art and public infrastructure services

SHAW, Rebecca (2022). Running across subsidence, following leaks: The ordinary failure of public art and public infrastructure services. In: CARTIERE, Cameron and SCHRAG, Anthony, (eds.) The Failure of Public Art and Participation. Routledge.

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When an artist is commissioned to explore an institution or organisation the pretext is often to ‘celebrate:’ to communicate complicated ‘hidden’ work to a public; to reach a ‘hard to reach’ community; to re-animate visibility or to find a form to express societal value. Success is understood as the achievement of these aims through a visible and legible work. However, the artist’s experience is often more like being harbinger of doom than flag-bearer. Commonly, within a few weeks of work it becomes apparent that there are tremors working their way up the legs of the host. Redundancies, mergers, strikes, restructures, loss of revenue and loss of identity: subsidence on a scale that no artistic work can shore up. Through reflecting on making public artworks in different institutions and organisations, I will reflect on the impossibility of communicating incoherent organisational change in a ‘stable’ visual form. In the early days of a commission it quickly becomes evident that stable ‘keys’ to build a project on (processes, spaces and people) are sliding out of reach. Artists have to keep ‘running’ to keep up a dialogue with the unstable terrain. The works that develop are not static snapshots, but are stretched, unstable, fragmentary and provisional in the same way as the context. Works are produced out of a shared experience of instability and uncertainty, and as a shared engagement with the difficulty of visibility, leading to empathy and understanding, if not ‘success’.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Art and Design Research Centre; Department of Art and Design
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2022 12:40
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2024 01:18

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