Interventions in Public Spaces: Contemporary Art, Institution and the City

Prof. Hou Hanru

Today, contemporary art and its institutions tends to be absorbed into a quasi-hegemonic system of conception, production, distribution and comunication dominated by the logic of neoliberal entertainment and consumption. This is driven by privatization of social space hand in hand with technological innovations. This also accelerates the redefinition of artistic practices as a "service sector” of the global capitalistic production and speculation disguised as “cultural industry”. How to resist to such a seemly unstoppable tendency of cultural transformation in order to defend and promote the sense of “being creative” as a possibility to re-imagine public good and re-emphasize diversity and freedom as the foundation of a democratic society is now an urgent challenge for art practitioners and institutions. Projects with original visions and strategies, using diverse languages from performance to digital “media art”, have been developed to reconnect “creativity” with the public spaces. Cities, with their streets, plazas and other infrastructure, are increasingly explored as sites of interventions of “alternative”, often “provocative”, actions. This in turn is supported by institutions aiming to defend their own roles as public forums for creative minds. A new tension between different and even opposite understandings and practices of making art is hence playing out on the boundaries at once separating and merging the public and private realms. In the age of globalization, this tension is arousing everywhere in the world, especially in major "global cities“.

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