Archives, Exhibitions, Art, and the Urban Public by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

How can a hybrid approach of using archives, exhibitions, art and an active engagement with communities help us to better understand, engage and query the people, and notion, of urban publics?

The articles collected here pose a series of questions about the ways in which we define the public, to whom public space belongs, and the experience of making art for the public. They explore the multiple ways that ideas of “the public”, “art”, and “community” intersect in the urban sphere, and take a critical approach to consider the multiple definitions of these terms.

These pieces consider the intersection of public memory and public art; the transformation of public space through physical and temporal art practices; the social, political, territorial, and personal roles of making marks on the public sphere; the idea of making art with the public – considering practices of participation and collaboration and new formulations of “social practice”; the rise of museums and art centers increasingly concerned with serving multiple kinds of communities; and finally, and throughout, the politics of art in the public realm and when art and place can be at odds with each other. While these readings focus on contemporary practice, many also consider the breadth of these ideas over time.

All of these questions have bearing not only on thinking about art, but more particularly on the ways we consider and understand the intersection of communities and creative practices within the urban context. At their core, these articles explore elements of what it means to be out in public, and to be continually making and remaking our cities.

 Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is a photographer, urbanist and curator. She is co-founder of Buscada, an interdisciplinary practice on place and dialogue, and is Associate Director of Civic Engagement Initiatives at the New School. From 2009-2012 she was Visiting Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the New School and a fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, London. She holds a doctorate in Environmental Psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY and her visual urbanist research and practice address the experience and politics of everyday place. Her scholarship has appeared in journals including Society & Space, Space & Culture, Radical History Review and Places; her work has been exhibited with institutions including MIT, Creative Time, the Center for Architecture, and the Tenement Museum.

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