The long-anticipated site www.publicart.ie has recently launched. Sponsored by the Arts Council and DAST, the site’s aims include:
• To build a solid body of information and knowledge on public art practice
• To place public art within a critical context
• To provide information on commissions, projects and news
• To develop a growing directory of commissions, projects and artworks
• To provide a curatorial approach to mapping public art practice
• To support information exchange, debate and news from the field
• To offer information on commissioning procedures
• To provide a space for new on-line artworks
I’ve been waiting for this site to launch for some time, especially given that I teach on some aspects of public art here at UCD. The site does have some good information on about 60 different projects, stretching acros the country. However the vast majority of these were temporary, time-based or performative works. There’s very little by way of more ‘traditional’ public art– and I’m not clear how far back in time the site’s designers intend to go. As much of the content seems to be based on submissions from various project coordinators, it would appear that this is a tiny snapshot of public art in Ireland, and probably not the most visible segment of that sector either (which is both a good and bad thing!) While it’s a great idea to give temporary projects added visibility (especially given that documentation can be hard to come by for such work), to neglect permanent art & sculpture (and any mention of the historical context of public art in Ireland) is a massive oversight. Additonally, I would expect to see on such a site links to excellent local authority websites and/or listings of regional public art, such as Donegal CC‘s efforts towards this end.
Most distressing from my own point of view, there seems to have been little consultation with the many academics on this island working on the subject of public art. While a few of the extracts on the ‘Writings’ section of the site are very interesting and influential (particularly Claire Bishop’s article on the Social Turn), most of the pieces here are journalistic in tone (or alternatively very shallow in terms of their research and scope), and include no reference to the many outstanding pieces of Irish academic writing and research on the subject (in both journal and monographic forms). This is not to suggest academics hold some kind of monopoly on commentary, but as I’ve worked myself in this area in Ireland for the last seven years and am aware of much current and recent research on Irish public art, I do find their exclusion very puzzling. On a related note, the Library section is patchy and also primarily international (no mention of Judith Hill’s landmark book on Irish public sculpture, for example) and would benefit from a read of the various syllabi of university courses on public art offered at Trinity, UCD, UCC, NCAD and elsewhere. As the range of publications on international public art is vast, why not elect to focus on work here in Ireland (do we really need another link to Maya Lin)?
Perhaps the designers & administrators of this site might elect to circumscribe their project more clearly? If the intent is to focus on very recent, ‘new genre’ (to borrow Suzanne Lacy’s term) public art, it would be more effective to note this. I don’t mean to be entirely negative about the site, as a centralised website on Irish public art is much needed and will prove valuable (especially to practitioners), given time and additional contributions. I also understand that this is a site in progress, without a dedicated administrative team (or so the website would suggest?), and is very much still evolving. I just can’t help feeling disappointed, given the great need to make information on Irish public art more accessible, web-based and richer in content and relevance.