Politicizing Publics: A social framework for public artworks

Mel Jordan, Andrew Hewitt

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The chapter proposes the use of a public sphere theory framework to emphasise the social and political interactions within the term ‘public’. Although our previous research relies heavily on the work of Jurgan Habermas this chapter attempts to connect Habermas theory of the public sphere with Doreen Massey’s idea that space is too often understood as formal, physical and static. Thus the two theories (Habermas and Massey) are considered together through this arrangement we can move away from the original physical description of both ‘public’ and ‘space’ within the discourse of public art.

    Furthermore by taking into account that the social turn in art practices is allied with the public realm, the public domain and public space, and is understood to include temporary artworks that engage people in their production, we identify a parallel set of concerns between Massey’s explanation of space and Habermas’ articulation of the public sphere. Hence we propose that the notion of the ‘social’ in the term ‘social art practice’ and the term ‘public’ in ‘public art’ should be understood as discursive constructs: the ‘social’, understood as in the ‘social production of being’ as opposed to a set of sociable interactions or chance meetings; the ‘public’ recognized as a contingent body of citizens with a degree of shared purpose or common experience rather than a placid community of abstractly equal individuals (ibid.).

    By bringing these two theories together, we can better understand participatory art practice. By distinguishing which artworks rely on a limited understanding of the concepts of ‘space’ and ‘public’, and which ones operate with an expanded engagement with ‘space’ and ‘public’, we can begin to articulate the different social relations of production within specific artworks. Appreciating this, we argue, enables us to better analyse in what ways artworks are public.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Everyday Practice of Public Art: Art, Space, and Social Inclusion.
    EditorsCameron Cartiere, Martin Zebracki
    Number of pages17
    ISBN (Electronic)978-315737881
    ISBN (Print)978-1138829213
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2016


    Dive into the research topics of 'Politicizing Publics: A social framework for public artworks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this