Anne Douglas: Working in Public – a learning framework

Seminar 3 – Quality and Imperfection

Anne Douglas:

Anne DouglasI just wanted to spend a few minutes to give you the context for this seminar.  This is the third in a series of four events calledWorking in Public and the whole programme is funded by The Scottish Arts Council.  The Scottish Arts Council is currently building a new resource for public art in Scotland called Public Art Resource and Research, Scotland (PAR+RS).  Our work within that resource is to try to develop a network of artists and arts individuals and to develop the debate.  Another aspect being an archive of high quality projects within Scotland.

In developing the seminars, we are actually taking advantage of Suzanne Lacy’s presence with us at Gray’s School of Art.  Suzanne is developing her own research into a very significant body of work, which is ten years of working in Oakland, California, between the period of 1990 to 2000.  The work is concerned with issues of race and colour and for us it offers a very rare example of the practice.  First of all, it is very high level; secondly, it is extremely well-documented; and thirdly, it is very long term.

Suzanne’s work presented us with an amazing opportunity to cluster around her own particular investigation a wider enquiry into the changing nature of art and public space.  That is one dimension.

Another dimension is a very important group of artists and arts administrators who formed the Core Group within Working in Public – about eighteen individuals who have brought their considerable experience of practice, to this discussion.  The Core Group have actually tracked all three seminars and contributed their own experiences to the discussion.

The final event – the fourth event – will be focused mainly by their experience.  Each event has taken the same kind of format which is an evening public lecture (which Simon is going to deliver for us this evening) followed in the morning by a presentation by Suzanne of one of her projects within the Oakland suite, followed by a dialogue between the guest speaker and Suzanne, and then the wider public.

In this case, we also have Grant Kester who presented the first guest lecture.  He has rejoined us for this event, and will join that dialogue tomorrow morning.

Each seminar has followed a different theme.  The first one was Aesthetic and Ethics of Working in Public, the second wasPower and Representation and this seminar is Quality and Imperfection.  We raised those themes in discussion again about key issues that arose through the Oakland Projects. They also have resonance beyond the Oakland work. I think these themes have proved a really good platform to begin to raise the debate.

At the final event, which we hope will be in Edinburgh in September, the whole dynamic will be inverted. The work of the core participants will be at the centre instead of Suzanne’s Oakland work.

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