The New Rules of Public Art

Demand new rules for public art now!

An organisation born in Bristol, UK, Situations reimagines what public art can be and where and when it can take place. We like to think and reflect on what happens when the spark of an idea is lit. We test out new ways in which to share those ideas through new commissions, events, interviews, books and blogs – just like this, The New Rules of Public Art.

Sign-up here to receive a link to download your free ‘The New Rules of Public Art’ poster or scroll down to get hold of your very own rulebook. In the meantime enjoy, share and debate The Rules.

THE NEW RULES OF PUBLIC ART

Rule no. 01

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK LIKE PUBLIC ART.

The days of bronze heroes and roundabout baubles are numbered. Public art can take any form or mode of encounter – from a floating Arctic island to a boat oven – be prepared to be surprised, delighted, even unnerved.

Flatbread SocietyFuturefarmers, Flatbread Society, Oslo, 2013. Photo: Max McClure

Rule no. 02

IT’S NOT FOREVER.

From the here-today-gone tomorrow of a “one day sculpture” to the growth of a future library over 100 years, artists are shaking up the life expectancy of public artworks. Places don’t remain still and unchanged, so why should public art?

BC SystemBC System, New Works Forever, Bristol, 2013. Photo: Georgina Bolton

Rule no. 03

CREATE SPACE FOR THE UNPLANNED.

Commissioning public art is not a simple design-and-build-process. Artworks arrive through a series of accidents, failures and experiments. Moments of uncertainty and rethinking are the points at which the artwork comes into focus. Let responses to the artwork unfold over time and be open to the potential for unforeseen things to happen.

Rule no. 04

DON’T MAKE IT FOR A COMMUNITY. CREATE A COMMUNITY.

Be wary of predefining an audience. Community is rarely born out of geography, but rather out of common purpose – whether that be a Flatbread Society of farmers, bakers and activists building a bakehouse or 23,000 citizens across 135 countries writing a constitution for a new nation. As Brian Eno once said, “sometimes the strongest single importance of a work of art is the celebration of some kind of temporary community.”

NOWHEREISLAND  Alex Hartley, Nowhereisland, Mevagissey, 2012.  Photo: Max McClure

Rule no. 05

WITHDRAW FROM THE CULTURAL ARMS RACE.

Towns and cities across the world are locked into a one-size fits all style of public art. In a culture of globalized brands and clone towns, we hanker after authentic, distinctive places. If we are place-making, then let’s make unusual places.

Rule no. 06

DEMAND MORE THAN FIREWORKS.

Believe in the quiet, unexpected encounter as much as the magic of the mass spectacle. It’s often in the silence of a solitary moment, or in a shared moment of recognition, rather than the exhilaration of whizzes and bangs, that transformation occurs.

WRIGHTS AND SITESWrights & Sites, Everything You Need to Build a Town is Here, Weston-super-Mare, 2010. Photo: Max McClure

Rule no. 07

DON’T EMBELLISH, INTERRUPT.

We need smart urban design, uplifting street lighting and landmark buildings, but public art can do so much more than decorate. Interruptions to our surroundings or everyday activities can open our eyes to new possibilities beyond artistic embellishment.

One Day SculptureHeather & Ivan Morison, Journée des Barricades, Wellington, 2008. Photo: Steven Rowe

Rule no. 08

SHARE OWNERSHIP FREELY, BUT AUTHORSHIP WISELY.

Public art is of the people and made with the people, but not always by the people. Artists are skilled creative thinkers as well as makers. They are the charismatic agents who arrive with curious ideas – a black pavilion could be barnraised in a Bristol park, a graveyard could be built to commemorate the Enrons and West India Companies of our fallen economy, the sounds of a church organ might bleed out across the city through a mobile app. Trust the artist’s judgment, follow their lead and invest in their process.

Rule no. 09

WELCOME OUTSIDERS.

Outsiders challenge our assumptions about what we believe to be true of a place. Embrace the opportunity to see through an outsider’s eyes.

page 32 One of the Nowhereisland Ambassadors introducing the Embassy Photo Max McClureNowhereisland Ambassador, Weymouth, 2012 . Photo: Max McClure

Rule no. 10

DON’T WASTE TIME ON DEFINITIONS.

Is it sculpture? Is it visual art? Is it performance? Who cares! There are more important questions to ask. Does it move you? Does it shake up your perceptions of the world around you, or your backyard? Do you want to tell someone else about it? Does it make you curious to see more?

Rule no. 11

SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF.

Art gives us the chance to imagine alternative ways of living, to disappear down rabbit holes, to live for a moment in a different world. Local specifics might have been the stepping off point – but public art is not a history lesson. Be prepared that it might not always tell the truth.

MissortsTony White, Missorts, Bristol, 2012. Photo: Max McClure

Rule no. 12

GET LOST.

Public art is neither a destination nor a way-finder. Artists encourage us to follow them down unexpected paths as a work unfolds. Surrender the guidebook, get off the art trail, enter the labyrinth and lose yourself in unfamiliar territory.

JEPPE HEINJeppe Hein, Follow Me, Bristol, 2009. Photo: Jamie Woodley­. Courtesy University of Bristol


Situations opens up the potential for artists to make extraordinary ideas happen in unusual and surprising places, through which audiences and participants are encouraged to explore new horizons.

We choose to work with artists who want to connect directly with people’s lives, creating space for them to take risks, to test limits and cross boundaries. Since 2002, artists have led us and thousands of others into unchartered territories, brought us together to build, bake, grow and marvel, transformed familiar surroundings, provoked us to ask ourselves challenging questions and told us tall tales of the future.

Demand new rules for public art now!

Join our mailing list and share in our mission, in thanks we’ll send you a link to download The New Rules of Public Art poster – join the mailing list

The New Rules of Public ArtThe New Rules of Public Art have been published as a pocket-sized rulebook. Stamped and numbered, editions are available to buy for just £2.50.

46 comments

  1. You had me right up until “download the poster” and “buy the book.” For me your vision of Public Art is an important one. An equally important vision is the “Public Art of Cyberspace” which I would also call “The Open Web.” Why do I need to download a PDF? Why do you need to mail me a dead tree? Can’t we think first and foremost about free and open content on the Open Web? Your book is a numbered edition? Oh gawd! How not Public Art is that? Please stop thinking in terms of scarcity! We called that “The 20th Century.” We now live in a century notable for the weightless abundance of freely shared ideas and creativity. Please embrace this. FULLY.

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  4. Loved this P’Art rave .. Very inspiring guys … as I am trying to pave the way for my future.. Starting to do digital pr for my art and have dabbled in Pub Art .. Think it perfect to attack old paradigms that keep us complacent about onslaughts to the Eco systems.. Here’s to a creative ‘out there’ future.

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  7. Reblogged this on Emily Goodrich and commented:
    DON’T MAKE IT FOR A COMMUNITY. CREATE A COMMUNITY.

    Be wary of predefining an audience. Community is rarely born out of geography, but rather out of common purpose – whether that be a Flatbread Society of farmers, bakers and activists building a bakehouse or 23,000 citizens across 135 countries writing a constitution for a new nation. As Brian Eno once said, “sometimes the strongest single importance of a work of art is the celebration of some kind of temporary community.”

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  13. This reminds me of a wee manifesto I wrote in 2009… Release the ferals
    THE FERALIST MANIFESTO

    Saturday 29 May 2010 Wellington

    Feral art…

    – is any art that acts to resolve, highlight and poke a stick at social and environmental contradictions and discriminations
    – says that all people, acting as artists, have the right to speak – through their chosen art forms – to wage a new regime in the art world – often against the vested interests of the industrialization of art through corporate, agents, national and local body controls over the freedom of languages to speak
    – often employs humour but is not constrained thereby
    – is mainly expressed outside the traditional art gallery and funding systems
    – is mainly done within the bounds of current law
    – employs any mise en scene, media, environment and art form to achieve its expression
    – aims to change the world, shift the status quo – to make it a far fairer, healthier and better place
    – engages and attracts individuals and groups to either anonymously or otherwise achieve its aims
    – is boundless feralism in, mainly, direct action
    – can test but will not harm, hurt or endanger, threaten or abuse anyone or any thing
    – is owned by no-one and is utterly not for profit
    – has no structure, organization or property – its is utterly a peoples movement of the likeminded
    – is artist mandated art – not curatorial manipulation of artists to conform to what amounts to curatorial art – using artists as their paint brushes

    b’art Homme
    Aro Valley
    Wellington

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