Rethinking the public spaces of galleries | ArtsHub Australia

What does offering a space to the public mean and who can participate? The Australian Center for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is leading the way in this direction with its latest project Who is afraid of public space?

In what has been described by ACCA Artistic Director and CEO Max Delany as an overhaul of the “role of artistic institutions as civic spaces for gathering, discussion, education and discovery”, the creatives immerse themselves in an open conversation about how the gallery can re-situate its relationship with the public.

Part of the ACCA series Major image exhibitions, the program is expanding to Melbourne to activate cultural engagement around place, site and civic spaces.

A sense of tactility runs through the main exhibition which sees ACCA’s four galleries bridging the gap between viewer and artwork to present an interconnected ecology of artists, installations, objects, and art. human interactions.

Collaboration is at the center of every space, from the headlining commission “Ngargee Djeembana,” which is a gathering space by Senior Boonwurrung Elder N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM and Sarah Lynn Rees, to “The Hoarding” by Sibling Architecture that transplants works of art in an urban infrastructure setting.

Briggs said that “Ngargee Djeembana” – a functional topography of deconstructed building materials native to Victoria – is about “how we celebrate the country” and intends to involve next-generation architects in the discussion.

“When we teach space to the younger generations, we have to think about where these materials come from… It’s about rethinking how to engage meaningfully with this country.”

Taken together, the two words Ngargee Djeembana translate to collaboration and community engagement, especially “valuing the diversity of our communities who are with us today,” Briggs added.

For Sarah Lynn Rees, built environment practitioner in Palawa, it was an opportunity to ask ‘where are these public spaces for Indigenous peoples in our environment’, adding that ‘there is not much public spaces that spatially or materially reflect the country, or the cultures to which they belong.

The project is a manifestation of “the strong belief that architecture has the power to give back an identity to a country that the architects of the past took,” said Rees.

An invitation to connect with the material culture of our civic spaces, “Ngargee Djeembana” creates a port for disruptive conversations.

Briggs said: “It’s about disrupting and taking over a ‘place’… it’s about creating something that would be built in a way that meets the needs of our communities, not the structures that have been made to us. imposed on all. “


Libraries are spaces for contemplation, for seeking knowledge, and the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and societies – the essence of galleries is much the same.

What if the galleries became more of libraries, enveloped in an atmosphere of comfort and leisure compared to its pristine white walls and perceived exclusivity?

“The Reading Space”, conceived and organized by three collaborators, Nicola Cortese, Lauren Crockett and Stephanie Pahnis presents such a possibility.

The walls transform into a subdued magenta, with a funky rug by Godfrey Hirst, lush lounge sofas by Lauren Lea Haynes, and sultry curtains to soften the structural rigidity of the space.

Cortese said “informality, comfort and a sense of possibility for the way [the space] could be reformatted or reinvented by those who use it ”is the main philosophy of the play.

An overview of the reading space “The Common Room” at ACCA. Image: ArtsHub.

In conjunction with the Melbourne Art Library, a selection of books are available for visitors to browse, borrow and exchange.

“In soliciting contributions from the public, we wanted to not only capture these diverse perspectives, but also create an invitation for the gallery space to be shared by all who took the time to contribute,” Cortese said.

Likewise, the educational space hosted by ACCA artist educator Andrew Atchison functions as a hub to showcase the products of such knowledge exchange.

Entitled “Creating art in public”, a selection of works by artists is brought into conversation with works by the student team – an exhibition that will be toured with new works by participants throughout the year. duration of exposure.

The public showcase showcases sustained engagement with the community, opens up a space for experimentation, and provides a glimpse into the future of art for the public.

As the discourse around public space continues outside the gallery, ACCA Who is afraid of public space? provokes a reflection not only on the role of gallery spaces, but on the connotations that can be reconstructed through creative interventions and community projects.

Who is afraid of public space? runs until March 20, 2022; see the full program.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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