About Me

Washington, DC, United States
I have been, among other things, a bookshop owner, counterintelligence agent, writer, art critic, and grad student (literature and art). One of my blogs includes some examples of my art writing, from the past decade, with some new pieces forthcoming. But my most frequent new posts are to my crime fiction blog, International Noir Fiction.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Public Art and public space

© Glenn Harper

(an unpublished lecture, 2001)

Rosalyn Deutsche's book, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, suggests that art makes its own public space. Art is a social relation, Deutsche insists, but it is a relation of a particular kind, not autonomous but not identical with other forms of everyday life. (Deutsche p. 237) Deutsche says that "art is not simply an object susceptible to manipulation by preexisting interests or social forces…Art per se remains socially neutral; art and society remain discrete identitities." (p. 237) What she sees as a critical public art retains an autonomy and a role in public space for art as art. She insists that public space depends on conflict rather than solidarity: an idea that is reminiscent of Paul Valéry's comment that conversation is about resistance, rather than acceptance, of what the other person is saying. Valéry was talking about the conversation between artist and critic, but it also applies to the conversation between artist and audience, and the resistance can go both ways. Deutsche's point of view on public space leads to an art of diversity rather than an art of community or majority. She suggest a metaphor that she adopts from Beatriz Colomina, the window between public and private space, with its implication of multiple points of view and, hence, critical difference. But the metaphor goes further: Colomina suggests that architecture itself is "a viewing mechanism that produces the subject. It precedes and frames its occupants." A public is constructed by means of acts of imagination—an insight that suggests that the role of artists (technicians of the imagination) in public space can be much more than shallow truisms or decorative surfaces. The art that Deutsch discusses is often temporary or performative, such as the various projections and narrative projects of Krzysztof Wodiczko.

To continue reading this essay at artdesigncafe.com, click Public art and public space. Click the following link to see the overview of writings by Glenn Harper at artdesigncafe.com.

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