Because over-sized sculpture has been the predominant form of art used to execute Public Art installations in Taiwan to date, many of our citizens mistakenly believe that the one form is synonymous with the other. In reality, expressions of Public Art are not limited to sculptural art; in fact, it is a misconception to limit Public Art to the realm of art objects, strictly defined. It is essential to the concept of Public Art that one understands the process by which the work was created, as well as the manner of its interaction with, its connection to, the community.

As the perennial mentors of the Public Art movement in Taiwan, the CCA is struggling to overcome this traditional mindset with its limiting definition. In the 2003 CCA Forum on Public Art, a consensus was reached: “Public Art is not necessarily confined to executed objects of the visual mode; in special cases, performance art may be considered (Public Art.)” Although the relevant laws have yet to be amended, the CCA has, in effect, opened a new direction for the artists of Taiwan’s Public Art movement. Future development holds promise that we can continue to extend the traditional borders of the dominion of Public Art. Such an effort will progress only if pioneers of creation are willing to exert the required time and energy.

In a strict definitional sense, Public Art is an incorporation of ‘public’ and ‘aesthetic’ elements. However, these two elements are conditionally exclusive; the creations of artists are not necessarily accepted by the public, and works generally accepted by the public do not necessarily possess aesthetic qualities. This is the conflict inherent in the concept of Public Art, which is necessarily confronted and overcome during a successful installation. The artist confronts and makes use of a characteristically unique space to execute the work. Therefore, the notions and preconceptions of the artist’s training and experience are unavoidably brought into some conflict with the space, and the artist must reduce the confrontational aspect by gaining profound insight into the environs and the culture that exist in and around it. It is an exercise unfamiliar to purer and more traditional artistic endeavor, which emphasizes the will of the artist above all else. It is a complex symbiotic undertaking, demanding that the artist evaluate interactions between the space, the culture and his own creative impetus.

The Public Art movement in Taiwan already has accomplished a great deal in terms of basic aims, its contribution to the civic body and to beautifying public spaces. The city of Taipei ranks among the world leaders in the number Public Art installations. However, the effort to beautify public spaces XXXX. According to the Ordinance on Cultural and Artistic Subsidies, Public Art works are to remain in place for a minimum of five years. This regulation prevents the removal of works seen as ‘unsuitable’ or those the public dislikes, a situation which the relevant authorities may want to review and evaluate.

The focus of Public Art in Taiwan thus far has been firmly upon the ‘public’ function, and the ‘aesthetic’ (expressed chiefly through the medium of sculpture), and less so on the ‘interactive’. This mistaken focus has rendered the majority of installations more decorative in function; they are likely to be objects as addenda, ornaments to parks, plazas and structures, and lacking the unique that characterizes Public Art. If in fact so-called Public Art is relegated simply to a decorative role, if it fails to represent the space for which it is intended and lacks cohesion with its locality, it will have lost the essence of what Public Art signifies. In this instance, the general public will keep hold of the impersonal view that traditionally maintains space between the observer and the work, and the work will lose its distinguishing character as Public Art. XXX, a reporter for the United Daily News, in an article entitled, “ A Work of Public Art is not an Object Thrust into a Space”, quotes Daniel Buren, a noted modern artist from France:

When I create a work of Public Art, I do not simply create an object and then thrust it into a space. I contemplate how object and milieu can together fashion a relativity, a module of space which utility is to afford a new perspective of both elements.

In this eloquent passage, the intimate relationship between the creative conception of the work and the site of its execution is made clear. It is the challenge that faces every genuine expression of Public Art. The aims of works of Public Art must include their function as the beautifiers of public spaces. Here is a summary of he current state of affairs:

1. Taiwan’s Public Art works as executed at present are primarily sculptures or paintings set up or fixed into place. They function primarily as decorations, and fail in the stated role of Public Art, which is to generate interaction between the work and the observer.

2. Emphasis need be placed upon interaction between the public and the work. The interactive elements of the work itself should be stressed, and it should generate a proactive response from the public, rather than the passive reactions of an observer.

3. The creation of Public Art involves elements both of the work and its environs, a fact that sets it apart conceptually from traditional art.

At present, most Public Art projects are commissioned through public ballot and commissioning procedures; comparatively few are the result of collective action. A lack of emphasis on community, civic spirit and local culture is an impediment facing today’s Public Art movement. Establishing local cultural identity and social consciousness requires that the distinctive character of the community be honored in the work, rather than executing some perfunctory ‘art object’ for a decoration. It is this communal spirit of thought and action, the expression of the will of the people that engenders works of Public Art and thereby reinforces cultural identity.

The future of Public Art rests with the determination of local communities. Utilizing the force of collective action for creative execution, and emphasizing the interactive element in Public Art together can renew the impetus behind the Public Art movement, and make good the struggle to diminish the space between the observer and the observed.


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