Symposium Art in the public space

  • key works

Available online until the end of February.

What is the state of art in public space in the Netherlands? What do people who work in this field encounter in their daily practice? What do commissions look like? Are there still many commissions and what problems do we encounter when it comes to realising art in public space? These and many other questions will be discussed at the Symposium Kunst in de openbare ruimte, which is being organised by BK-informatie in honour of the fortieth anniversary of this professional journal for visual artists - which, in 1979, began by bringing new commissions for visual art in public space to the attention of a wide audience.

The symposium concludes our 40th anniversary celebrations. In order to provide insight into the historical development of art in public space, last March we organised 100 key works of art in the public space announced. Key works are works of art that are or have been artistically, historically, spatially or socially significant. Key works are representatives of the spirit of the times; in other words, they are typical of a certain period in the history of art in public space. Or they have contributed to raising awareness about a subject and have become part of what we call collective memory. Many key works have caused controversy; they have clear supporters and opponents.

Then, last May, we launched the #watdoetdathier campaign to find out how works of art have landed in society: We walk past the statue in the park while ringing the bell, or drive past the work of art on the roundabout without realising it. Public art is everywhere, even in our immediate surroundings. Through Facebook, Instagram and the website we collected as many photos and stories as possible of public artworks throughout the Netherlands. What has the artwork experienced in recent years? Is it well maintained or has it become a hangout? What do you think it means? We asked the public: Tell us!

Structure of the symposium

The insights we have gained from selecting the key works and the # campaign form the basis for the symposium. We have invited six people to initiate a discussion about a topic they are dealing with in their own practice. These six people will then invite other guests to their table to further explore and deepen the topic.

Due to the limited room capacity by the corona measures, we offer two roundtable discussions also via a livestream

Program Livestream

11:00 - 12:00:

Liesbeth Jans (Kunstloc) talks to Véronique Baar (Qkunst), Anne Wenzel (visual artist), Meike Veldhuijsen (KOP, Breda) and Sjaak Langenberg (visual artist) about the question, "Are new mediators needed?"

1:00 - 2:00 pm:

Joke de Wolf (journalist, art critic) talks to Kamiel Verschuren (visual artist), Femke Schaap (visual artist), Giny Vos (visual artist), Anna Tilroe (curator) about the question: "What is the use and necessity of hassle in art in public space?"

2:30 - 3:30 p.m. :

Jeroen Boomgaard talks to Birthe Leemeijer (visual artist), Liesbeth Bik (visual artist), Ella Derksen (advisor) and Theo Tegelaers (TAAK) about other forms of commissioning.

Other debates, to be viewed online later:

Rogier Brom (Boekman Foundation) talks to Rosa Sijben (visual artist), Eduard Weijgers (Kunstwacht) and Rinske Hordijk (Culturele Zaken Utrecht) about the question: "What responsibilities do we have regarding art in public space?".

Rinske Hordijk and Suzanne Sanders (Cultural Affairs Utrecht) will talk to a.o. Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries (visual artist), Leroy Lucas (Keti Koti) and Simon(e) van Saarloos (philosopher) about the question: "What is the power of (new) monuments in our society?"

Arno van Roosmalen will talk to, among others, Risk Hazekamp (visual artist), Quinsy Gario (visual artist) and Sissel Marie Tonn (visual artist) about how to think about art in a speculative way in the distant future, for example 2050.

Speakers and topics

Liesbeth Jans

Are new mediators needed?

Advisor Art & Society at Kunstloc Brabant, for this symposium the question "Are new mediators needed?". Existing structures through which art commissions in the public space used to come about have largely disappeared and the way in which a commission is granted to an artist has also changed. Artists are increasingly involved in social tasks which concern both the physical and the social environment. There has been a shift from creating a physical object to thinking about issues that affect us all, such as health, climate change or mobility. The importance of the creative thinking power of artists in innovation is increasingly recognized. This means that other domains are also thinking about assignments for artists, for example health and welfare as well as spatial planning. This is positive when it comes to support for art in society. However, there are quite a few bulkheads The differences between the various policy areas make practice difficult, especially when it comes to financial contributions to the realisation of an art project. A mediator could play a useful role in DEPARTURES. What skills does a mediator need and then how do you become a mediator?

Jeroen Boomgaard

Other forms of commissioning

Jeroen Boomgaard, lecturer in Art & Public Space at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and member of the Stadscuratorium Amsterdam and the Curatorium of Leiden, wants to raise the question of other forms of commissioning in this symposium.
Traditionally, the main commissioners of art in the public domain have been local or national governments. And when private patrons were involved, they were and are often companies, semi-public institutions such as housing corporations and hospitals, or wealthy benefactors. In recent years, however, the question has arisen as to whether a more democratic form of commissioning is possible, in the sense that it is not the elected representatives who are responsible for the realization of art in the public domain, but precisely those who will be most affected by it: the residents and users of the places where the works are displayed.
This question is the final step in a long quest for more involvement and support for works of art in the public domain. Projects in which participation and co-creation were central are important moments in this development. Many of these projects, however, were handicapped by the fact that the initial impetus for their implementation was still provided from above, which meant that a certain degree of patronage could play a role. The method of generating involvement by having residents vote on a number of designs is highly problematic for all sorts of other reasons.
The residents themselves as commissioners therefore seem a good way of giving works of art an accepted and valued place in a community. The question is, however, what you should imagine this to mean: what does it come down to and how does it work? The possibility of shared or outsourced commissioning fits in with a tendency to make residents co-owners of their environment and their problems. However, this 'ownership' has all kinds of ideological undertones - if you listen carefully you will hear a strong neo-liberal keynote - that must be carefully considered. In short: what does this ownership actually mean for art in the public domain and how do you ensure that it leads both to a feeling of greater control over their daily lives by residents and to an assignment to an artist to make a high-quality contribution to the public domain.

Rogier Brom

What responsibilities are there for art in public space?

For this symposium, Rogier Brom, an art historian and coordinator of research at the Boekman Foundation, put on the agenda the question "What responsibilities exist around art in public space?"
What are the responsibilities of the client, the artist and the work of art? But also: where do the responsibilities lie in public space? Which are the responsibilities of the authorities that fill in this space, and which are those of the users, and what does this mean for the works of art that can be found in it? Where does one responsibility end and the other begin?
Rogier Brom wonders when these responsibilities are connected and when they 'bite' each other. The reason for placing a work in public space is of great importance to how it is perceived. What is the reason for placing art in public space? This context will irrevocably change over time, placing the work in an entirely different dynamic and with different problems, ranging from overdue maintenance and changing zoning plans to shifts in the social debate and a super-diverse public. Works of art must try to hold their own during such changes, or else be removed on the basis of conscious and transparent choices. In doing so, should the works be viewed individually and fragmented, or as a collection and thus as part of a larger story in which their individual voices may be less prominent?

Rinske Hordijk and Suzanne Sanders

What is the power of (new) monuments in our society?

Rinske Hordijk is policy advisor/project leader for Art in Public Space at the Cultural Affairs department of the city of Utrecht. Suzanne Sanders is a member of the Visual Arts and Design Advisory Board of the City of Utrecht. She specializes in interdisciplinary forms of work and presentation and in the intersection between heritage and contemporary culture. For the symposium she put the following question on the agenda: "What is the power of (new) monuments in our society?
In the coming years, the City of Utrecht will be working to realize three monuments in Utrecht: a tribute to guest workers, a monument to the history of slavery and a monument to the young woman resisting the war, Truus van Lier. Three monuments for those who are currently absent from public spaces. Monuments - in the broadest sense of the word - that reflect on the demographic diversity of the city and our (social) history. These monuments are created in part at the request of society itself, as an initiative from the city. The municipality considers it important to give space for this. The increasing demand for new monuments and the critical attitude towards existing statues of historical, colonial figures require new approaches. What can be the power of new monuments in our society? How do we think about a contemporary monument? What works? We have also noticed that a young and diverse generation of inhabitants does not easily recognise themselves in the existing sculptures in the public space. How can we ensure that new monuments are a better reflection of society? Are we stuck in certain current quality standards and visual language? How can we let go of them or at least question them?

Arno van Roosmalen

How can we speculatively think about the future of art and public space, for example for the year 2050?

For this symposium, Arno van Roosmalen put the question on the agenda: "How can we speculatively think about the future of art and public space, for example for the year 2050?"
In his view, the contemporary practice of sketch designs, participation processes and central commissioning shows signs of weariness; the discourse has consisted of the same people and methods for years. If you really want to think about art in public space and the future, you will have to break away from all the existing structures and current artistic practices.
For this symposium he would like to 'unclog' the thinking around existing practice, and turn more to a speculative way of thinking. Perhaps the bacteria that swarm in our air need more attention and can that be visualized? Perhaps in the future such visualization questions will no longer belong only to the domain of the artist, but (temporary) collectives of various expertises will take up such questions.
For this symposium Van Roosmalen invites guests who present an artwork or plan that actually points to the future and contains speculative elements.

Joke de Wolf

What is the use and necessity of hassle in art in public space?

Art critic and writer Joke de Wolf puts the following question on the agenda for the symposium: "What is the use and necessity of hassle in art in public space?" Art in public space is visibly present to all users of that space, and as a result often causes hassle. Passers-by, local residents and interested parties such as shopkeepers and viewers often let it be known what they think of the work even before it is there. Especially if they do not like the work, they know how to unite offline and online with action groups and petitions, and seek their justification in the press, sponsors or politics. In an article in HP/The Tijd Joke mentioned three categories of fuss: "Grumbling from people who think modern art is a waste of money - 'you can get a lot of rubbish out of it' -, from people who don't agree with the ideological principles of the sculpture - 'that criminal doesn't deserve a monument' - or from people who don't think the location is suitable - 'those are indispensable parking spaces'." At best, all three categories are represented in one way or another, she concluded. Because when opponents stir, supporters also come forward. During the symposium we will discuss these questions further. Can fussing contribute to the embrace of a work of art? And doesn't a lively debate offer the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument?

courtesy of:
Mondriaan Fund, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, IONA, BNG Cultuurfonds, KunstLoc, provinces of Gelderland, Drenthe and Flevoland.

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