NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Bridging the Gap

Dr Lyndall Adams recently completed a major public art project as part of the Wanneroo Road/Joondalup Drive Interchange Bridge Project, for Main Roads WA. Professor Clive Barstow talked to Lyndall about collaborating with industry from ideas to completion.

By Professor Clive Barstow and Dr Lyndall Adams

Dr Lyndall Adams recently completed a major public art project as part of the Wanneroo Road/Joondalup Drive Interchange Bridge Project, for Main Roads WA. Professor Clive Barstow talked to Lyndall about collaborating with industry from ideas to completion.

Barstow: What is the significance of the site and who are the intended audience?

Adams:  The site is in a commercial/residential area – a place the audience drives/rides/walks through rather than a destination. Early feedback indicates a great response.

Barstow: Inevitably public artworks of this nature are a collision between aesthetics and function, where does this dialogue begin, did you have a strategy and who was in control of this relationship?

Working in an environment where there are many moving parts – engineering, lighting, architectural form, traffic flow (pedestrian, bike and road) a certain integration of those moving parts is required.

Adams:  If you are talking about aesthetic impact, the ‘quality’ of the artwork, then this is always in relation to different criteria (e.g. artist versus lay understandings)[1] and that high exposure to the judgement of the media and the public does tend to orient artworks towards more ‘consensual forms’[2]. Artists however facilitate the process of inquiry and of urban renewal[3] – utopianly constructing artworks anchored to the publics they are created for. While this kind of minimal risk approach was not optimal it did provide much needed public art being delivered into public hands although lacking any critical base.

The decisions made along the way were supported by industry, it was the community and council members at the community reference group meetings (CRG) that caused a few hiccups. For instance, they wanted an indigenous work – this came up multiple times as did the use of a particular image drawn by one of the school children – a tree. I negotiated over several CRG meetings that I was not indigenous and hence could not produce a work with culturally sensitive content, and as for ‘the tree’, I used the pink from the drawing in the bridge colour scheme as a way of compromising our ideas.

Barstow: You mention interdisciplinarity in the context of working with agencies, how was this different to working in a cross-disciplinary way with other artists?

Adams:  The skill set is different. With other artists I don’t necessarily need to know how a thing is built i.e. if I’m on an interdisciplinary project with a musician I don’t need to know how to play music – it’s a more conceptual process.  Working in an environment where there are many moving parts – engineering, lighting, architectural form, traffic flow (pedestrian, bike and road) a certain integration of those moving parts is required.

Barstow: Within an academic context, how do you frame public art as research?

How artists enact place listening in site specific works of art through community consultation and make the work valuable to the community through involvements with schools for example.

Adams:  It’s a fine balance – universities also value commercial ventures and I’ve had to make an argument that this project is research. Much of the initial research is about how its leveraged for the public – how artists enact place listening in site specific works of art through community consultation and make the work valuable to the community through involvements with schools for example. Then comes the conceptual work of the artist in combination and collaboration with the moving part. Universities seem to value the journal article as research but not that this also requires the artist to doubly articulate the work on top of working with the complexity of interdisciplinarity on site.

Barstow: Now that the project is complete, what would you have done differently along the way and is there anything to be learned through such an industry collaboration that might be useful in an interdisciplinary context within the University?

Adams: This is the second project, and I learnt a lot from the first. On this project I did not collaborate with another artist – instead opting for employing an assistant artist/research assistant – because the complexities of working on an interdisciplinary project such as this is not typically a skill set that many artists have. Thinking through the options and making decisions without consulting an artist collaborator was far less complex in an already complex process. Industry collaborations on the other hand are very useful to the university – the grant agreement between the academy and industry was a lengthy process but with patience I managed to develop a template for future work that both parties are vaguely happy with. Hopefully this might form a template for future commissions of this kind within the University.

References

[1] Cartiere, C., & Guindon, A. (2018). Sustainable influences of public art:A view on cultural capital and environmental impact. In M. Zebracki & J. M. Palmer (Eds.), Public Art Encounters: Art, Space and Identity. Routledge.

[2] Maeder, T., Piraud, M., & Pattaroni, L. (2017). New genre public commission? The subversive dimension of public art in post-Fordist capitalism (J. Strelec, Trans.). In J. Luger & J. Ren (Eds.), Art and the City: Worlding the Discussion through a Critical Artscape. Routledge.

[3] Knight, C. K., & Senie, H. F. (2016). Introduction. In C. K. Knight & H. F. Senie (Eds.), A Companion to Public Art. Wilry Blackwell.


Dr Lyndall Adams is a Senior Research Fellow and supervisor of creative HDR students in the School of Arts & Humanities at Edith Cowan University.

Professor Clive Barstow is Professor of Creative Arts and Executive Dean of Arts & Humanities at Edith Cowan University.

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