Contexts of Generosity: Making Resilient Public Art

Conference
Art Association of Australia and New Zealand
Date
2017

One of the more pejorative labels often levelled at socially engaged practitioners is the tag of cultural missionary. Whether it be the implication that communities are seen as generic frames around which an artistic practice is dropped in, or the assumption that community members should want to engage in creative projects, there is a suspicion - sometimes latent, often overt - of the motivations behind this mode of artistic practice. In this paper, I will examine three of my own temporary public art projects in Sydney, Airds and Christchurch that have engaged with communities in crisis. In particular, I will interrogate how the 38 conditions of fear, exclusion and inherent instability might be re-negotiated through the performance of potentially transformatory collective experiences.

In seeking to frame some of the ways my practice has utilised sport, pleasure and the value of visceral thrill to provoke threshold moments in the face of people and places experiencing accelerated transition, I will examine how participatory environments can operate as a mode that draws together both playful and provocative gestures. In the spirit of nineteenth century carnivals, these temporary inflatable games offer a varied combination of enjoyment and fear that while occasionally threatening to self, serve to build connections within and across communities.