by Neometro

ACCA | Who’s Afraid of Public Space.

Arts & Events, Design - by Open Journal

February 2nd, 2022.

Who’s Afraid of Public Space? continues ACCA’s Big Picture series, which explores contemporary art’s relation to wider social, cultural and political contexts.


Engaging contemporary art and cultural practices to consider critical ideas as to what constitutes public culture and to ask who is public space for, the exhibition is inspired by and seeks to animate recent global debates related to the incursion of private interests in the public sphere, the politics of land and place, and patterns of urban transformation, gentrification and technological change.

Nicola Cortese, Lauren Crockett and Stephanie Pahnis, Reading Space: The Common Room 2021, installation view, Who’s Afraid of Public Space? 2021–22, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Courtesy the artists. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Through multiple installations and interventions, the exhibition reflects on the dynamic relations between urban design, safety and surveillance, as well as unsanctioned counter-positions of self-organisation, improvisation and play. Works in the exhibition also span themes of work, housing, democracy and social enterprise as they play out at the intersections and overlaps between private and public, corporate and state, profit and public good.

Project Space: The Hoarding 2021, designed by Sibling Architecture, installation view, Who’s Afraid of Public Space? 2021–22, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

Promoting the role of the public gallery as a civic space, ACCA’s four galleries have been transformed into spaces for gathering, education, reflection and debate – including the major keynote commission of Ngargee Djeembana, a gathering space by N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM in collaboration with Sarah Lynn Rees. Who’s Afraid of Public Space? also extends beyond the walls of ACCA with artists’ projects, installations and events taking place in public spaces across Melbourne and online, including:

  • ABORIGINAL LAND: SSID 2021, a new commission by interdisciplinary Taungurung artist Steven Rhall. Join participating wireless networks, including at ACCA, to engage in a spontaneous consideration of First Nations sovereignty. 
  • In a special one-off event on December 11, APHIDS screening of DESTINY 2019 will take place in the Cardigan House Car Park on Grattan Street.  This moving-image work has been made in collaboration with gig economy workers and explores the personal and global experiences of precarious labour.
  • On a busy stretch of footpath on St Kilda Road, pedestrians will encounter a series of ambiguous public announcements, broadcast intermittently along the concourse between the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall.  The project, titled Public Announcements 2 2021, by Laresa Kosloff, draws on etiquette blogs and specialist websites to reflect on the language and expectations of the public realm. From February 4 to 20 March.  
  • David Wadleton’s historical photographs of his inner-northern neighbourhood will be placed in the windows of a selection of High Street shops from Northcote through to Thornbury, from December through to March. The project, titled From noxious trades to boutique bars – a Northcote pictorial 1980-2021, traces the changing face of Melbourne’s inner-north.  

Image by Andrew Curtis

  • Based at Monash University, the cultural research collective XYX Lab are known for their data visualisation projects that address gendered experiences of violence, safety and public space.  From December through to March, an urban street poster and billboard project titled Keep Running will reflect on the experiences women and gender-diverse people across hundreds of sites around Melbourne.  

Gene Bawden and Monash University XYX Lab, Keep running 2021, street poster design. Courtesy Gene Bawden and XYX Lab

  • Hoang Tran Nguyen’s Work, Worker 2022 invites the audience to participate in three karaoke sessions featuring a songbook of work and worker related songs, taking place in Footscray on Thursday 20 January, at University Square on Wednesday 16 February and at Westgate Park Friday 4 March

Hoang Tran Nguyen, Labour 2013, performance documentation, Cotton Mills Precinct, Footscray. Courtesy the artist

  • Beth Arnold and Sary Zananiri revisit their urban public sculpture Within Foundations 2012 in Officer in outer-metropolitan Melbourne. This  VicUrban Commission took the form of a sculpture/installation drawn from the floor plans of houses in nearby estates, which is now nestled within a thriving community. Ten years later, a new work, Building Foundations 2021- provides an opportunity to consider the changing nature of public art, local communities, and public and private housing development. Running over the summer months, visitors are also invited to join Arnold and Zananiri for a community picnic and discussion to share their insights on the work and life in the area on Saturday 12 February 2022. 

Beth Arnold and Sary Zananiri, Within foundations 2012, bricks, porcelain tiles, render, plantings, dimensions variable. Eastern Pocket Park, Corner Bridge Road and Celestine Drive, Officer, Melbourne, VicUrban public art commission. Courtesy the artists. Photograph: Beth Arnold

A number of satellite exhibitions and events will be programmed and presented by cultural partners over the Australian summer months, including Abbotsford Convent, Arts Project Australia, Blak Dot Gallery, Bus Projects, Chunky Move, City of Melbourne Footscray Community Arts, Metro Tunnel Creative Program, Moreland City Council, and Testing Grounds.

Who’s Afraid of Public Space runs from 4 December 2021 – 20 March 2022.

Words and images courtesy of ACCA | Australian Centre for Contemporary Art


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