Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reflections on placemaking art and public art in Canberra

My most recent trip to Canberra this week gave me time to reflect on the difference between placemaking public art and public art.  This came to me when Fiona and I were standing at one of the entry points to Reconciliation Place - a place dedicated to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Barry Smith © Detail - Entry bower Reconciliation Place

Barry Smith © Entry bower Reconciliation Place - Fire and Water - Judy Watson

Barry Smith © Entry to Reconciliation Place- entry to National Library -  both hold the stories
Close by was another place dedicated to science and discovery ( Questacon). All the sculptural works we were looking at were in one of our favourite mediums - rusted steel.

Barry Smith © A place for science and maths sculpture
Barry Smith © Mobius - twisted loop (artist not referenced)
Barry Smith © Szilassi Polyherdron - maths creates beauty  (artist not referenced)
Though the reconciliation and science art works were of the same medium (rusted steel) as Pear, Angel of the North and Virginia 1970 that are sited in various vantage points around the National Gallery, I think there is a significant difference.

Barry Smith © Pear Version 2 - Baldessin
Barry Smith © Virginia 1970 - Meadmore
Fiona Dempster © Angel of the North (front) - Gormley
Barry Smith © Angel of the North (back) Gormley
Reconciliation Place is in  the Parliamentary triangle, the heart of our democracy and foundation as a nation where many of our most important buildings are found. The sculptural artworks here told the story of Indigenous people of the local area; why there was a need for reconciliation; and recognised the actions that had been taken towards reconciliation.

The science related sculptures referenced Questacon and let you know this is a place of science and discovery.

Whereas the art works around the National Gallery recognised certain artists and important pieces of sculptural art. Whilst they are beautiful and interesting in their own right they do not tell a story of the place or people in the locations they are located.

The reconciliation and science art is placemaking art - it tells the story of the people and place where it is. The National Gallery sculptural works are public art - they entertain and inspire but don't tell a story about the people or place in which they are displayed.

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