Dirty art
Decolonising public space
in Translations, an autoethnography
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In migration the production of space is ontological: the ground is not given (the host faceless, Indigenous sovereignty unceded), the imagined community and its habitus are projects rather than realities. Another way to say this is that the representational space of democracy is suspended. The work of a migrant artist does not represent anything: it aims to produce a new situation. Such art is ‘dirty’, intervening in change rather than offering an aesthetic equivalent. These considerations lie behind a series of ‘creative templates’ or dramaturgies of public space devised for major urban redevelopments in Melbourne and Perth. Characterising the new spaces of public encounter as an endless compilation and renewal of lines and knots (visualised as a flexible string figure), the ’creative template’ reconceptualises ‘public art’ as the unscripted performances of public space that reclaim it as a place where something happens. The ‘something’ is likely to be the return of the repressed history of colonisation, as our work Sugar, devised for the Liverpool (UK) Capital of Culture festival, illustrates.

Translations, an autoethnography

Migration, colonial Australia and the creative encounter

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