Reflection: Artwork in the public space?

Watching a rerun of a documentary recently on Antony Gormley, What do artists do all day?, I was struck by a couple of initial statements he makes. Gormley, who has an installation Another Place in nearby Crosby says “Sculpture puts something into the world that wasn’t there before.” (What do artists do all day?, Episode 12, 2014). And through this intervention “To that bit of the world, the setting of the world is changed.” I considered in broader terms, isn’t this the case when any artwork enters the world? In the public space, in order to install a piece of art in public, the ownership of the work is relinquished to the space itself. And therefore any further interventions would also be a casualty of the previous expression. It is in this spirit that I enjoy the work of Gormley, together with James Turrell and Richard Serra, that they evolve sculpture into a kind of experiential placeholder.

I reflected on this upon seeing a recent intervention on a local graffiti in Liverpool. The piece Rude Kids was probably there before I noticed it, but being my first interaction with it, 21/08/18 it is the date I know of its physical existence. Fast forward a couple of months later and I noted a couple of tags surrounding it. It reminded me of a quote by Gaston Bachelard who says “…as soon as an art has become autonomous, it makes a fresh start." (Bachelard, 1958/2014, p.16). Furthermore, how that contrasts with how we fossilise, in that "it is now the destiny of many photographic troves to be exhibited and preserved in museum-like institutions." (Sontag, 2003, p.77).

My tutor Robert recommended to me recently some reading on Nicholas Bourriaud; citing a quote “In observing contemporary artistic practices, we ought to talk of ‘formations’ rather than ‘forms’.” (Bourriaud, 2002, p.21). Formations being fluid suggest a continuum to both form and context. It also shows the limitations of a photograph in a singular sense, that “…no single photograph is actually decisive” (Flusser, 1983/2000, p.39) and as such “The desire of representation exists only insofar as it can never be fulfilled, insofar as the original is always deferred.” (Crimp, 1993, p.111). So back to the idea of sculpture as an experiential placeholder. Can photography evolve in a similar way?

It is through this evolving state that I want to further develop my shadowgram methodology. In solitary terms the abstract image on its own is not enough, but my recent experiments will aim to demonstrate, like On Exactitude in Science (Borges, 1946) a state of permanent incompleteness, impossible to map the totality in the fabric of space and time. How would that look? I don’t know…yet.


Bourriaud, N (2002) Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Presses du Réel.

Crimp, D (1993) On the Museums Ruins. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Flusser, V (1983/2000) Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion.

Sontag, S (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Penguin.

What do artists do all day?, Episode 12 [television programme online] Prod. Tinto. BBC FOUR (2014) 30 mins At: (Accessed on 22.10.18)