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Changing places, creating situations : a national and international visual investigation into temporary art in public places


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Woods, EJ 2009 , 'Changing places, creating situations : a national and international visual investigation into temporary art in public places', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This project is concerned with new modes of ephemeral, relational practice for the
Australian public art audience. It uses visual art models to investigate the use of
everyday activities as an aesthetic premise for temporary public art activities in
Australia and results from a lack of cohesive models/frameworks for a temporary
public art practice.
Public art, usually publicly commissioned work for a specific site and intended for
public viewing, is in a state of change: in Australia, the transition from the production
of permanent, monolithic and monumental works is recent but this transformation is
already well established in Europe. I have surveyed various models of public art-making
in Europe and have expanded upon the possibilities of employing these
models in Australia.
My research has been informed by a number of contemporary theorists and artists
that, since the early 1980s, have been concerned with practices, variously termed
social sculpture (Deuys), new-genre public art (Lacy),functional site (Meyer) and
relational (Bourriaud), that dissolve the distinction between public art, community
art, art education and such avant-garde practices as performance and conceptual art.
Since the 1990s, artists working in public have begun to depart sharply from the
dominant, abstract, ego-driven, Modernist mode of production. Rather than defining
private, autonomous systems of representation, they have begun to use the vernacular:
sites and social structures that directly relate to the personal experiences of the public.
Instead of producing discrete objects, the focus has shifted to the infiltration of, or
interventions into, the flow of the daily lives within the community. These
interactions promise more profound revelations of sites and the creation (or recreation)
of a sense of community.
Such practices, to which the ephemeral nature of experience is fundamental, bear a
clear lineage from early conceptual practice of the early 1960s that generate
interactive relationships between artists and the community. This project studies the
relationship between art, the artist and the community through participation in twelve
events in Europe and Australia; of these, seven were chosen to exemplify the key
factors that help make a project successful or, in some cases, unsuccessful.
Throughout this research the objective was to identify, describe and salvage from the
social space, a temporary ongoing and sustainable justification for supporting
relational practice into public art-making and programming in Australia. This, in turn,
will support and provide an alternative to permanent public art that is currently
favoured by major public commissioners. Methodologies have included situational
observations, collections of stories, living in situ, performance-based activities, video,
art in situ and permanent and temporary commissioned public art works. Each has
facilitated a personal understanding of public art-making.
The project concludes that the connection of people and their everyday activities,
although often tenuous, is directly related to what binds communities together.
Furthermore, this research suggests that 'Relational Public Art', that is, projects where
artists have meaningful access to community, facilitate the free flow of a more diverse
and open discourse. Despite the conclusions I have drawn, the project is not aimed to
present a definitive solution to public art-making. Rather, it has been driven by the
need to understand how contemporary site has changed the way in which we, as
community, as artists, and as art agencies, can participate wholly within public art.
This research has produced a series of national and international projects; the
accompanying exhibition includes components of the final project, The Making of
Curtains and informative panels that illustrate a selection of the projects that best
exemplify the research topic. The exegesis includes documentation of the practical
and conceptual investigations together with the research underlying the historical and
contemporary themes associated with site-based art practice.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Woods, EJ
Keywords: Public art, Site-specific art, Public art spaces
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2009 the Author

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