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.