CFP: Public Art and Accountability: Whose Art for Whose City?

The 5th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting

University of Iceland, Reykjaví­k, Iceland, June 11-14, 2013



Public Art and Accountability: Whose Art for Whose City?



Dr. Martin Zebracki

Cultural Geography Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands

Dr. Joni Palmer

Geography Department, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA


Session abstract:

Art in public space is a burgeoning phenomenon in Western cities, and matters from geographical levels of the body to international developments. Public art comprises permanent or temporary artworks, either physical or immaterial, on sites that have open public access and are located outside museums and galleries. This session invites scholars from across all disciplines, who are engaged with multidisciplinary articulations of social and cultural theory, to critically analyse the socio-spatial contexts, experiences and affects of public art.

Public art is a geographical conversation piece that is not uncritical in the least. This session welcomes papers that may engage with one or more of the following critical questions, or related relevant matters. By whom and for whom and from which rationales is public art made in time and space? And what does this imply for urban identity and the image of urban visual culture more particularly? To what extent are public art’s publics involved in public-art practices, and to what extent do they critically engage with them? To what extent are socio-spatial inclusion and exclusion by way of public art intentional and immanent within institutional and policy contexts and related political power regimes? What are the socio-spatial lines of public art in times of recession and poverty? To what extent could a critique of a neoliberal impoverishment of the public artscape of cities and regions be developed? To what extent could polarising shifts in the development of the public artscape be discerned? For instance, to what degree are prestige artworks within the scope of city marketing privileged by urban planners as compared to art in neighbourhoods that is aimed at social cohesion and cultural empowerment? Does this lead to a problematic partitioning of social and symbolic spaces in urban culture? To what degree does the implementation of public art produce and reproduce and as such create, maintain and deepen dominant spaces of injustice? How can the balance be geographically redressed by public art itself? And how can public art, as such, contribute to sociocultural sustainability?


Suggested topics this session attempts to explore include, but are not restricted to, the following:

· Socio-spatial legitimisation of public art (cf. Selwood 1995; Sharp et al. 2005)

· Critical geographies of public art (cf. Senie and Webster 1998; Lees 2001)

· Genealogies, ontologies, ontogeneses and epistemologies of public art

· The dynamic interrelationships between different classes of public art, patrons, planners, creators, publics, place, space and time

· New genre public art (cf. Lacy 1995)

· Spatial politics of public art (cf. Deutsche 1996)

· The relationships between public art and the public sphere (cf. Mitchell 1992)

· Deconstruction of public-art claims (cf. Hall and Robertson 2001; ‘public artopia’ in Zebracki et al. 2010)

· Site-specificity of public art (cf. Kwon 2004)

· Relational aesthetics of public art (cf. Bourriaud 2002)

· Social negotiations of public art and its site (cf. Massey and Rose 2003)

· Engaging geographies of public art (cf. Zebracki 2012)

· The relationships between imagined and reified dimensions of public art

· Non-representational geographies and embodiment of public art (cf. Hawkins 2012)

· Symbiotic relationships between public art and queer spaces

· Spatial poetics of public art (cf. Bachelard 1994 [1958/1969])

· Public art as time-space/Time-space as public art

· Reflexive and performative methodologies of public-art research

· Public art as methodic device in geographical research


If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit an abstract via the conference website between November 1 2012 through January 31, 2013.



Bachelard, G. (1994 [1958/1969]) The Poetics of Space. The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places. Translated by M. Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bourriaud, N. (2002) Relational Aesthetics. Translated by S. Pleasance and F. Woods. Dijon: Les Presses du Réel.

Deutsche, R. (1996) Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Hall, T. and Robertson, I. (2001) Public art and urban regeneration: advocacy, claims and critical debates, Landscape Research 26(1): 5-26.

Hawkins, H. (2012) Geography and art. An expanding field: site, the body and practice. Progress in Human Geography, doi: 10.1177/0309132512442865.

Kwon, M. (2004) One Place after Another. Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Lacy, S. (ed.) (1995) Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art. Seattle: Bay Press.

Lees, L. (2001) Towards a critical geography of architecture: the case of an Ersatz Colosseum. Ecumene (Cultural Geographies) 8(1): pp. 51-86.

Massey, D. and Rose, G. (2003) Personal Views: Public Art Research Project. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Mitchell, W. (ed.) (1992) Art and the Public Sphere. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Selwood, S. (1995) The Benefits of Public Art. The Polemics of Permanent Art in Public Places. London: Policy Studies Institute.

Senie, H. and Webster, S. (eds) (1998) Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Sharp, J., Pollock, V. and Paddison, R. (2005) Just art for a just city: public art and social inclusion in urban regeneration, Urban Studies 42(5/6): 1001-1023.

Zebracki, M. (2012), Engaging geographies of public art: indwellers, the ‘Butt Plug Gnome’ and their locale. Social & Cultural Geography, doi: 10.1080/14649365.2012.723735.

Zebracki, M., Van Der Vaart, R. and Van Aalst, I. (2010) Deconstructing public artopia: situating public-art claims within practice, Geoforum 41(5): 786-795.