The 5th Nordic Geographers’ Meeting University of Iceland, Reykjavík, 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

Full reference list:

If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit an abstract via the conference website by January 31 2013. Please feel free to ask Joni Palmer ( or Martin Zebracki ( any questions related to this session.

Dr. M.M. (Martin) Zebracki
Lecturer & Researcher in Cultural Geography, Utrecht University, Wageningen University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Academic Advisor, University College Utrecht

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