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Out in the Open

What constitutes a piece of public art? Should it be outdoors and monumental? Permanent and made of strong, durable materials? Or is it something that can be more fluid, intimate in scale and ephemeral in execution; operating in our constantly changing urban environment in new ways, inviting us to consider our surroundings in a new light and asking difficult questions about how city spaces are developed and controlled.


Out in the Open was a 3-day programme of new commissions, screenings, interventions and conversations about what it means to make art in the public domain in 2015.

As well as premiering new artworks in the city of Belfast
, Household invited leading local and international artists, curators, researchers and producers to present key projects and case studies that explore the transformative possibilities of public art. Through this discursive programme of talks and discussions we examined how artistic and curatorial strategies in cities such as New York, London, and Helsinki could inform how art in public is currently considered in Northern Ireland, and what it may look like in the future.



Out in the Open events:


Household collective invited audiences to attend a symposium of talks presented by Eva Neklyaeva, Director, Checkpoint Helsinki; Meredith Johnson, Curator and Director of Consulting, Creative Time, New York; and Phoebe James, Collection Coordinator, Artangel, London at PLACE, where the invited speakers and the members of Household discussed their diverse artistic models and profile a selection of the most exciting and innovative public art projects produced across the world in recent years.


Together with artist and curatorial collective Brown&Bri, artist Dan Shipsides and artist and writer Daniel Jewesbury, Household led a guided bus tour that provided a critical glance at the city’s recent history of art in public, charting both the highs and lows of this problematic area of making, curating and commissioning.


In considering alternative ways of presenting artworks and ideas in the public realm, Household invited Belfast-based artists Mitch Conlon and Martin Boyle to make new work in the city as part of the Out in the Open programme. Their work addresses the ambiguous nature of contemporary approaches to artmaking in public. They may be experienced as chance encounters embedded in the fabric of the city or in the activities of a local community of interest.


Martin Boyle expanded on his exploratory practice to make two new works, Semi-Permanent and Permanent-Semi; a series of subtle urban interventions and observations, executed in response to certain ill-conceived planning decisions and constructions across the city centre. In north Belfast, Mitch Conlon commenced the first stage of Solitude – a long term project in collaboration with Cliftonville FC – with a performative action in the Waterworks Park.


In East Belfast, Household staged an immersive screening of Echt, by acclaimed Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams, in the hidden Maple Leaf Social Club – one of the longest running social clubs in the city, which will soon be demolished. This absurd, comical and surreal film depicts a post-apocalyptic future driven by societal greed, where kings are hoarders and status is based on conspicuous consumption.


To provide a counterpoint, visitors were invited to book an appointment to view a piece of prime real estate in the city centre, where London based artist Philip Ewe installed TIKET TO A SCAM ARTIST. Based on recordings with the London Metropolitan Police and a property-based scam involving a man called Tiket, the work takes a creative handling of authenticity to address ideas around urban planning, property, and economy.

About Bedwyr Williams

Bedwyr Williams is an artist who lives and works in North Wales and his work takes many different forms, including installation, performance, drawing, sculpture and increasingly film. In 2013 he represented Wales at the Venice Biennale and recent solo exhibitions include Limoncello, London, UK; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK; VISUAL, Carlow, IRL; g39, Cardiff, UK; Vestjyllands Kunstpavillion, DK (all 2015); Tramway, Glasgow, UK for Glasgow International; MOSTYN, Llandudno, UK (2014); Welsh Pavilion for 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, IT (2013); IKON, Birmingham, UK (2012); and Kunstverein Salzburger, AT (2011).

About Brown&Brí

Brown&Brí is the collaborative creative practice of Rachel Brown and Brighdín Farren. They have been based in Belfast since 2009,when they began making work about the city; in 2012 establishing and running a café-bar on a barge, and in 2014 a presentation of their failed attempts, over 18 months, to live in the city centre – both performative actions made in response to an under populated city centre and riverbank, and the trailing dysfunctions of a city emerging from conflict. These projects also raised questions about what public art is, could be and what its functions are. From this their work has developed more theatrically, involving astronomical explorations and gradient mathematics.

About Daniel Jewesbury

Daniel Jewesbury is an artist and a writer on art, in addition to being a lecturer and researcher in the Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster. His main research areas include: the many dimensions of public life, and the threats to them in the perpetually-regenerating, neoliberal city; public space, and the ideological uses of public art; as well as the forms in which it is still possible to ‘be public’.

About Dan Shipsides

Dan Shipsides is an artist based in Belfast. He is a former committee member at Catalyst Arts and Bbeyond. Shipsides also teaches on the MFA programme at the Belfast School of Art. He is interested in creative and critical relationships to place, spaces, encounters and events. The processes of his work reflect and embody adventures and misadventures in ‘real life’ which often includes climbing and mountaineering alongside the day-to-day activities of life and an open response to the politicised landscape of urban Belfast where he lives.

About Artangel


Based in London but working across Britain and beyond, Artangel commissions and produces exceptional projects by outstanding contemporary artists. Over the past two decades, the projects have materialised in a range of different sites and situations and in countless forms of media. Artangel’s work is powered by the belief that artists are capable of creating visionary works which impact upon the way we view our world, our times and ourselves in unusual and enduring ways. Many Artangel projects are given shape by a particular place and time. They can involve journeys to unfamiliar locations, from underground hangars to abandoned libraries. Or sometimes they can offer unfamiliar experiences in more familiar environments – a terraced house, a department store or daytime television.

About Checkpoint Helsinki

Checkpoint Helsinki is a Finnish contemporary art organisation, established in 2013. They commission and produce contemporary art in Helsinki, as a part of everyday city life. They work without a fixed space and you can see their productions in various locations, from major museums to tiny bookshops, on city streets and in local youth centers, in abandoned buildings and online. Being able to produce and curate extraordinary, unexpected art is one of the reasons why they love living in a city.

About Creative Time

Creative Time has commissioned and presented ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world— even in outer space. They are acclaimed for the innovative and meaningful projects they have commissioned. In partnership with a variety of well-known cultural institutions and community groups, they have commissioned art in unique landmark sites from the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Governors Island, and the High Line, to neglected urban treasures like the Lower East Side’s historic Essex Street Market, Coney Island, and New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward.


PLACE is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the making of great places across Northern Ireland. PLACE is composed of a multi-disciplinary team combining expertise and extensive experience in architecture, town planning, visual art, curation, design, social science, education, research, community engagement and event management.

About Philip Ewe

Philip Ewe is a multi-disciplinary artist currently living and working in London, UK and Rotterdam, NL.  Upcoming shows and participation include Rhythm of Thought, Performance as Publishing at The Whitechapel Gallery, The London Art Book Fair; participation in The Conch discussion group at The South London Gallery, London and Laff Box, Showroom MAMA, Rotterdam.

About Mitch Conlon

Mitch Conlon is an artist originally from the west of Ireland who is currently based in Belfast. He is a director at Catalyst Arts, Belfast; Chairperson of Engage Studios, Galway; and was a member of the artist collective Knee-jerk. He holds a BA (first class honours) in Fine Art Sculpture from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and a Masters from the Faculty of Fine Art, National College of Art and Design, Dublin. He works within a performative framework to create one off inclusive events that incorporate storytelling, improvisation and humour in a range of unexpected locations. Recent presentations of his work have taken place in the Fruit and Vegetable aisle of Lidl; the Galway Docks car-park; the dole-office; the Oranmore roundabout, and the Global World hair salon.

About Martin Boyle

Martin Boyle is an artist who assembles objects and images in a playful and performative manner. This direct method of working – poaching already existing objects – is presented through photography, installation and sculptural pieces. Boyle lives and works in Belfast. He completed a Masters of Fine Art in 2008 at the University Of Ulster, Belfast, and a BA Honours from the Limerick School of Art and Design. He has recently exhibited at G126, Galway, Ireland (2015); Art Centre Ongoing, Tokyo, Japan (2014); Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (2014); Ulster Museum (2013); Scope Art Fair, New York (2013); Kao Yuan Art Center, Taiwan (2012).

Programme design by Tom Hughes. All photographs by Simon Mills.

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