Public Art & Politics – Karabi Art
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Public Art & Politics

Public Art & Politics

Public Art is essentially a work of art in the public space. The strength and reach of public art is enormous as it is accessible to all. The impact is high as there is a level of interaction and impact on all the spectators. The place or space occupied by the work of art becomes instrumental as one does not have to go to the work of art in a designated private space. The spectators and the public at large encounter it casually during their daily acts and activities.


The impact is lasting due to the scale of the projects and the context to the community the passersby belong to. It is because of this particular feature that public art has been used for propaganda. Public art has often been used for political ends especially. In this regard the most extreme and intensely deliberated manifestation has been use of art as propaganda particularly within dictatorial regimes combined with subdual of any form of conflict. The most prominent example of this is the approach to art in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China.


Conversely, Public Art has also been often used to counter these very propagandistic actions of political or dictatorial regimes. By employing culture jamming techniques artists have used popular media and reinterpreted it with guerilla style adaptations in an attempt to comment on the relevant social and political issues for the public. Culture jamming is also used by the artists to encourage social exchanges relating to political concerns with an intent to alter the manner in which people relate to the world by reinterpreting the existing culture. The magazine Adbusters explores the current social and political issues through culture jamming by reinterpreting the popular design campaigns.


Artists have also resorted to Public art to initiate a censorship free means of contact with spectators in an effort to promote their own artistic ideas in more open societies. The artworks may be intentionally transient like temporary installations or performance pieces, which have a spontaneous aspect to it. As a characteristic these installations are showcased in urban environments without a formal consent of the authorities. In time though this kind of work is known to have attained official recognition. Some of the examples include instances where the line between graffiti and guerilla public art have merged like John Fekner’s art on billboards, Keith Haring’s early work on the poster holders in New York City Subway and the current work of Banksy. Works like the Northern Irish murals were in response to periods of conflict. This kind of art offered an effective communication channel in small distressed groups or in larger society. These kind of works have actually come be of great use in creating a dialogue and in bridging the social chasms that have caused and fueled human conflicts.

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