Allan Takes Aim Blog

Politics and Public Art

Posted on: 27 May 2013

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Politics and public art

Yesterday’s blog posed the question “What is Public Art?” It also said it was being claimed that the multi mammaried Skywhale balloon, launched in Canberra a week or so ago as part of Canberra’s Centenary, was being claimed as a piece of public art.

Unfortunately, calling something a piece of public art is a device commonly used by Government politicians as a means of covering up how they had been deluded into thinking the artwork they originally commissioned that would be part of their legacy that would to remind communities in the future about their time in office would, in the case of Skywhale something they might regret. Instead it might make the community perceive them as art philistines.

Contrary to any impression you might have gained yesterday that while Canberra has some public art, the arts lobby thinks it doesn’t have enough. Indeed the arts lobby constantly lobbies the ACT Government to provide more public art and because the government is always looking for of methods to capture votes it is susceptible to the pleas of the arts community. The result: Government Ministers see commissioning more public art as a means of garnering votes. A secondary result, the art community is kept in a state of permanent anticipation, the community in a permanent state of apprehension and tourists something new to look and laugh at.

But let me leave such whimsical thoughts behind and get down to brass tacks about public art. I think the ACT Government should ask the public at large what pieces of art they would like to see commissioned. And when I say the public at large I mean the public at large not just the views of a handful of members of the ACT’s political parties and art groups. In my opinion the Government might get a shock at some of the artworks the community at large might like to see commissioned.

The Government’s answer to the public’s suggestions would probably be that twenty years later the public might not like what was chosen while the public’s argument that the same could be said about the Government’s choices would be met with a blank stare, which brings me back to Skywhale.

I fact when I first heard about Skywhale I thought the Government had decided that in addition to being the Australia’s political Capital it should also be the country’s avant garde Capital. With that in mind and as a member of the public, let me put forward a suggestion for a piece of public art that will pay tribute to the Capital not only on this centenary but on centenaries ever after.

I’d like government to commission a work called “Parliament in Action” comprising a revolving metal base on which stands one male figure and one female figure representing the bureaucracy. The male figure would have its left arm outstretched and one finger pointing and the female figure would be posed with right arm outstretched and finger pointing. Surrounding the base, concrete Members of Parliament sit in static pose looking up at the two figures as if trying to give them directions.

As this is a free speech site don’t be afraid to voice your opinion about the blog but at the same time give your suggestions about what would be great public art in Canberra.

Comment welcome.

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1 Response to "Politics and Public Art"

The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain , usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity , community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.

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