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Encounters and interactions: audience engagement with the NewcastleGateshead public art collection
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Encounters and interactions: audience engagement with the NewcastleGateshead public art collection



Rebecca Farley presentation to ICCHS Research Postgraduate Conference 2012. ...

Rebecca Farley presentation to ICCHS Research Postgraduate Conference 2012.

Over the last thirty years NewcastleGateshead has established an international reputation for public art commissioning. While ambitious claims continue to be made about the societal and environmental impact of public art, particularly in terms of regeneration and placemaking agendas, what we might call the ‘aesthetic encounter’ between audiences and public artworks is often missing from the discussion. As Harriet Senie noted in her work in New York City the audience for public art remains largely “an imaginary construct”. Using NewcastleGateshead as a case study my research project aims to go some way to fill this gap, taking a primarily qualitative approach to investigate audience engagement with contemporary public art in the city, both with individual artworks and through the conceptual and interpretational framework of the wider public art ‘collection’. This presentation will outline some of the key questions that I aim to address through this project and introduce a discussion on the mix of appropriate investigative methods that might be employed within the research.



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Encounters and interactions: audience engagement with the NewcastleGateshead public art collection Encounters and interactions: audience engagement with the NewcastleGateshead public art collection Presentation Transcript

  • Encounters and interactions:audience engagement with theNewcastleGateshead public art collection. Rebecca Farley ICCHS Postgraduate Research Conference 11 June 2012
  • Give and Take 2004 River God 1995 Swirle Pavilion 1998 Everchanging Grainger Town Map 2005 2003 Gateshead Garden Festival 1990 Blacksmiths Needle Tyne Line of Text Flow Escapology 1996 2005 2008 Rolling Moon 1990 Angel of the North Nocturne Four Questions 1999 2006 2009 Pillar Man 2004 Spheres Wor Jackie Rudder Tributary Community in Motion 1990 1991 1996 2005 20071990 1995 2000 2005 2010
  • My research questionHow do audiences encounter and engage withpublic artworks in NewcastleGateshead and towhat extent might this activity be framed as an interaction with a contemporary public art ‘collection’?
  • Three research aims:1. To examine and describe the City’scontemporary public art ‘collection’.2. To investigate the character of audienceengagement with these artworks.3. To explore the potential of a ‘public artcollection’ as an interpretive framework.
  • “Public art can make a majorcontribution to giving a placecharacter and identity, bringing peopleinto and through places, generatingcivic pride in a neighbourhood andimproving its image.” British Urban Regeneration Association
  • “Public Art can play an important role in providing an attractive, high quality environment and in helping to build a new community. Public Art can provide a focal point, enhanced sense of place and delight for local residents.”Creativity in the Coalfields, English Partnerships, 2005
  • The public art audience?“Big sculptures in public spaces are put there, amongother reasons, on the assumption that the people whopass through those spaces will see the sculpture and insome way be affected by it….Yet the consistent desire todefine public art never – but never – goes to specificaudiences and asks them anything about that art..”Massey, D., Rose, G. (2003) Personal Views: Public Art Research Project, The OpenUniversity.
  • The ‘aesthetic’ encounter? "If we are to understand the interaction between individual and artwork that produces the aesthetic experience, we need to know more about the artwork and the mechanisms through which it engages people, and we need to know more about the individual peoplethat encounter that particular work of art at a particular time in their lives and at a particular time in history.” Belfiore, E., & Bennett, O. (2007). Determinants of Impact : Towards a Better Understanding of Encounters with the Arts. Cultural Trends, 16(3), 225-275.
  • To investigate the character of audience engagement with public artworks What do I mean by ‘engagement’? How might this engagement be evidenced? What data collection methods might I use?
  • “I really like the one outsideNorthumbria University. As asculpture it’s got real presence.I don’t know anything about it,but I like it.” Gateshead College student
  • “When I read the title it somehowclicked. I’d never really appreciated itbefore, just seen it as rather big andlumpy. But it made more sense whenI knew what it’s called.” Friend of the Shipley Art Gallery
  • Gateshead Cultural Volunteers “It’s the Speaking Gate” “Is it in Saltwell Park?” “No, it’s along the Riverside.”
  • “Were they daring art students, organised pranksters or just dedicated fans of the Batman franchise?” Source: www.thepoke.co.uk"As Im an atheist I can not say Shearer is God but he might be an angel," believes Mark Thurston, who is clearly agnostic about the definition of atheism. Source: http://football.guardian.co.uk
  • Evidence of audience engagementPhysical tracesBehaviourWhat people sayUser generated content
  • Data collection methodsObservationVisual surveyInterviewsLongitudinal surveyAuto-ethnography
  • Summary•  More to public art than ‘The Angel of the North’•  Big claims made by public art advocates•  But little known about public art audiences•  Range of ways in which people engage with public art•  Shown how these might be evidenced•  Indicated breadth of research methods I might use.
  • Thank you. Any questions? Rebecca Farley ICCHS r.farley@newcastle.ac.uk http://rebeccafarley.wordpress.comImages: © Rebecca Farley, and courtesy of Commissions North / Arts Council England, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council. © The Photographers