PROJECT | Public Art as Minor Architecture?

Posted on 19/09/2012

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I’ve been trying to develop an interesting methodology so that my public art writing project has relevance and potency. As part of my research, I found some references to Jill Stoner’s Toward a Minor Architecture, a book that seems relevant to questions of public art. My central thought here was whether I might frame public art as a ‘minor architecture’. This kind of framing may give public art more impetus and momentum as a ‘placial’ practice. Here are some quotes from an online review:

Minor architectures are lines of escape through the majority rule of architecture’s myths. They reveal the latent externalities within architecture’s enclosures, weaken its status as visible object, break the stable identity of the architect subject and expose the nature within. ‘A minor architecture is becoming space rather than being form. It hums along restlessly, turning away from the stale orders of commodity, originality, permanence, and perfection, and towards incompleteness and immanence.’ ‘Minor architectures are, in fact, opportunistic events in response to latent but powerful desires to undo structures of power.’ They are intentionally ‘improvised, fractional, stripped of decoration and even of grammar.’

‘Thus to practise architecture in a minor mode requires not only the partial deconstruction of buildings and the structures of power that lead to their incessant reproduction, but also the deconstruction of the architect/subject. Minor architectures not only register a minor voice upon the major one, they also cause identities to collapse into one another … authorship is put into reverse, and the design process becomes editorial.’

The attention to power and deconstruction seems important as public art can become the basis for reorganisation in and of public space. So I would, therefore, see the temporary use of blighted buildings (either formally by creative enterprises or informally by the squatter), DIY or Right to the City initiatives (where there is more going on than meets the eye), the small hybrid cultural space/bar (like Room 60 at Kelvin Grove Urban Village) or a festival (as an occupation of public space). It’s about doing and articulating these minor architectures the way artists do and articulate them, as not only a kind of potential public art, but also a potential for public art given disturbing political scenarios like the Queensland government’s decision to axe the art+place program.

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