Public 2015: The Art Of The Possible

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by FORM on Friday 13 March 2015.

Human habitat is changing. As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, and our lives overlap with the lives of yet more and more people, there’s a need for us to ask more than ever before of the cities and public spaces we share. And what we ask of them, now and for the future, goes further than the basic provision of accommodation, amenity and sustenance.

We are looking for environments which respond to our desire to belong and also to lead positive, productive lives. And if we want to give back to our communities, we are recognising that we also need to take responsibility for shaping them.

PUBLIC, the urban art symposium and the festival, invites us to discuss responsibility, ambition, creativity and innovation, and explore how they combine to make healthier, happier, smarter neighbourhoods, towns and cities. How tactical urbanism has the power not only to change the appearance of place but go far deeper than bricks and mortar, and offer something for the public good. How an image-based, usually word-free medium – art – sparks a multitude of conversations, which then combine to create a much bigger picture. And during the symposium urban artists from Australia and all over the world are translating the spirit of our intent into murals and outdoor art, across the walls of neighbourhoods in Fremantle and Perth, the grain silos of the Wheatbelt, and up into the vast horizons of the Pilbara.

We live and work in a network of neighbourhoods, which typically stretch from a central business district to the suburbs. Every street corner is potentially an intersection not only of foot and vehicle traffic, but also people, stories, and cultures. The wellbeing of the whole depends on the health of its parts, on building successful social ecologies as well as urban topographies. But do these happen by accident or by design? What goes into making a ‘real’ city?

And what is a ‘real’ city? Perhaps one which feels textured, stimulating, even challenging, yet also welcoming, caring, and playful. One which is confident enough to support a variety of lifestyles and economies, and unafraid to show the patina of history, endurance, endeavour. A city able to mirror and channel the diversity of its inhabitants, where the benefits of scale do not come at the cost of the fine grain of individual experience. A city that can weather adversity because it has the resilience to reshape itself; which engenders a sense of affection and respect, where the most vulnerable inhabitants and the most modest locales have value, and a valued space. A city that looks good, feels good, because it manages to keep all of these elements in balance, but doesn’t wipe out a necessary frisson of risk. A city which demonstrates a heart, and a soul.

So PUBLIC gives us an opportunity to ask questions of ourselves, and think about the neighbourhoods we want to establish, preserve or improve across our cityscapes, and how creativity in all its forms can inspire us do this in a joyful and positive way.

How does Perth build on the tremendous advances of the past decade, and move forward into the future? Far from being isolated, the prosperity of our state and its capital are very much linked to the prosperity of the rest of the globe, so perhaps these are timely conversations to have. Perhaps it’s fair to say the future isn’t what it used to be. But now is such an exciting time to be around Perth, a city which seems to be embracing the art of the possible.

Houses and tower blocks and roadways don’t make a ‘real’ city. People do. Are we bystanders or participants? Do we want to live somewhere or do we want to belong there?