RESEARCH | Malcolm Miles on public art

Posted on 19/09/2012


I’m working in the State Library’s Asia Pacific Design Library on my public art writing project. I’m thinking I should name myself a writer in residence to move this project forward and to highlight the critically connected nature of this endeavour. I should but I probably won’t even though it makes sense to do so. Can I use this library as that kind of platform? An obvious and necessary step in my project is a literature review,not only to map the critical terrain but to position my own work therein. I’m already encountering works that are covering similar territory to that which I had set my sights. A moment’s anxiety. I need a new itinerary, and to get a fix on this Australian perspective. Malcolm Miles Art, Space and the City: Public art and urban futures is one such book which opens into discourses of ‘the city’ – its political, social and discursive construction as well as some of the problematics of ‘public good’. There’s a wondrous and somewhat daunting realisation that when we focus on one aspect of the city, we may unwittingly have to trace some more connections and complexity than initially anticipated. Nothing can be assumed, nothing is simply given. Take this comment from Miles which casts a shadow across planning’s well intented complacency where something as seemingly benign and desirable as liveabilty is described as:

A construction by professionals for their supposition of the benefit of users, its underlying agenda perhaps being the same stability that characterises the rational city, and it content containing a possibly contradiction between a desire for a more democratic society and a resort to nostalgic notions of urban history, as if conviviality once existed; but it also arises from ecological concerns and a reactions against the dehumanising effects of consumerism.

This is the kind platform that public art can be. It can be an invitation to question so many assumptions about the cityand city making.