Planning the second Salon: on Initiative and Public

Posted on October 28, 2011

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Working lunch with the ABA-team (Susanne, Ilka and Aleksander), diligently planning the next salons. My outline:

In the programme of ABA meetings I hope to shed light on a few questions (see also post on First Observations). First I feel there is a sense of urgency in terms of the future of public art. This urgency is real in the Netherlands at the moment: national budgets for public art are being cut rigorously, and local budgets will follow soon. Art itself – in many more places – is confronted with a tremendous lack of ‘draagvlak’ (support) that comes to the surface in the political shifts that are taking place, and it is wondering how to regain it. I think public art has a key role to play in the current developments and in this process of discovering new ‘draagvlak’, but it needs to wake up to the task.

Secondly, what interests me in public art and what I think is important to get perspective on for the future, is where the initiative for public art lies. Traditionally this is with politicians and policy makers, making it part of plans for architecture and urban development – and there is also a strong current of initiative coming from artists, socially engaged or otherwise, making their own agenda’s. The origins of the resources with which public art projects are funded are directly related to the possibilities these projects have to speak to their audience. Where the artists’ agenda comes together with that of the policy makers things tend to become confusing and the power of the art work to speak freely can be compromised. Where is the initiative of the audience, the public, and are there other ways, new ways, to think about these things?

My third question, prompted by the great volume of sculptures-in-the-street in Berlin, resulting from various percent-for-art regulations, is what is to be done with this enormous legacy? What does it mean in the fabric of the built environment, as a collection perhaps, should we build on it or start selecting? This is a matter perhaps best addressed by art itself, as proved by Manfred Pernice’s work Roulette on a roundabout in Utrecht. I would like to investigate the outline and possibilities for an art project on public art, one that doesn’t look inward but puts the questions out there and creates awareness. From the monuments to the autonomous sculptures; the artful street furniture to the motivational murals; everything under review.

The next Salon will be on Wednesday November 2nd, and will focus mainly on the ‘do it youself’ qualities of Berlin, when initiatieves for public art projects come from artists or private parties. Participants a.o.: Philip Horst (Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum), Susanne Prinz (Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V.), Mariska van den Berg (art historian, investigating forms of appropriation of public space), Iepe Rubingh (artist), Lars Ramberg (artist).

Looking forward to it!

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