The Politics of Temporary Public Art in Wellington: One Day Sculpture A Case Study

David Cross & Jennifer Gillam
2009 Conference

Increasingly artists and curators have sought to engage with temporary and place-based modes of practice in the public sphere to activate new ways of looking at, and thinking about, site, duration, objectness and participation. The question of why such a mode of practice has become almost ubiquitous can no doubt be located within a field of economic and cultural imperatives. Some of these could easily be described in altruistic terms as seeking to both expand the audience for art but also to expand where art is made/experienced and who contributes and helps shape its production. This unfolding of dialogical and relational modes at the same time clearly operates across a finely calibrated continuum that exists within an evolving, if unstable, alignment of art as public event and public art as corporate driven event spectacle.

This paper will examine key issues surrounding how artists and commissioning agencies can dynamically and critically negotiate the public sphere with a very particular reference to the specificity of place. Using as a case study the One Day Sculpture series currently taking place across five cities in New Zealand, it will examine not simply why artists are increasingly enamored with the particularities of locales and communities, but how such work can steer a course between a politically dexterous engagement with place, the economic imperatives of event culture, and the advanced aesthetic regimes of post-medium art.

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About the author

Dr David Cross is Director of the Litmus Research initiative and Associate Professor in Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington. He is currently the project leader for One Day Sculpture featuring new commissions by twenty seven artists including Thomas Hirshhorn, Paola Pivi, Bik van der Pol, Superflex, Javier Tellez and Michael Parekowhai.

Jennifer Gillam is project manager of One Day Sculpture and has co-ordinated the production of public works by Lara Almarcequi, Maddie Leach, and Roman Ondak among others. She is a lecturer in the School of Fine Arts, Massey University, a practicing artist and former co-director of artist project space, SHOW. She is co-editor of the forthcoming book of SHOW projects.