Public Aesthetics and Public Ethics

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What makes public art fair game for political graffiti? This 1969-1972 monumental untitled sculpture by Margel Hinder occupies a courtyard space in Woden, Canberra. In its time, such art was resolutely apolitical. In those days, such examples of public art were a source of cultural pride. Untouchable. However one might now say that the concept of the public in the space of public art enables the kind of transgressive political action we see here. I’m not sure I know how to unpack the ethics of anti-aesthetic actions such as these. Graffiti on works of art maximises attention, as we see from recent examples around the world. But does it also diminish the politics of the action? And today there’s a topical piece at Hyperallergic. Food for thought in every direction…

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 ampersandduck on 07.31.13 at 9:14 am

I was shocked when I turned up at the square for the Free Refugees rally, because it was so obviously associated with the rally itself, and seemed only to be put there to be a backdrop to the event. There are other sprays and tags around the buildings, as you would have seen, but this was a bit over the top.

I attribute it partly to ignorance of the significance of the work, and partly to the fact that it is a concrete work placed inside a numbingly anti-social ‘social’ space that turns the piece into just another bit of establishment furniture. How can the general public know what is abstract art and what is a design feature in a space like that?

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