April 8, 2017 - Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) - Civic Actions: Artists’ Practices Beyond the Museum
April 8, 2017

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)

Zoe Scoglio, In The Round, 2016. Performance documentation, Fairfield, NSW, co-commissioned by C3West on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, PYT | Fairfield, and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). Image courtesy the artist. Photo: Anna Kučera.

Civic Actions: Artists’ Practices Beyond the Museum

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At a time of increasing inequality and social tension, a new publication by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) considers the intersections of socially engaged and public art practices within a global context, with a focus on Australia and the MCA’s ground-breaking C3West program. What role can art play in bringing people together? Can artists working in public spaces and situations shift perceptions and attitudes? Does socially engaged practice inhibit artistic excellence?

Civic Actions: Artists’ Practices Beyond the Museum delves into these crucial questions, focusing on the intersection of social and public projects, and the possibilities of art practice in public space. This essential publication is international in focus and features formal essays and critiques along with conversational reflections by high-profile artists, curators, academics and cultural practitioners from across Australia, the Asia-Pacific, Europe and North and South America, who work with communities in the public realm.

The book expands on the 2015 conference of the same name initiated by the MCA through its long-term C3West program and co-presented with Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) and Parramatta City Council. Since 2007, C3West has developed more than a dozen partnerships with businesses and non-arts organisations across Greater and Western Sydney to create artist-led projects which give voice to local issues.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, MCA Director, said: “The contributions in the book highlight the transformative capacity of contemporary art, and the ways in which a range of organisations, from artist collectives to brick-and-mortar art institutions, can work in non-art locations and contexts in manners that are dynamic, responsive and collaborative.”

In "Culture is the Language of the Commons," Nato Thompson (USA), Artistic Director of Creative Time, focuses on socially engaged art through the dual lens of class and race. He writes, "The idea of taste that persists in the art world is outdated, and people who say 'there’s good or bad art' are being fake. There are just points of entry, intrigue, complexity, power, performativity."

Curator and writer Hetti Perkins (Australia) discusses the need for Indigenous-led art projects in the public domain, which transform rather than exploit the environment: "Art or cultural activity in an urban landscape is a mechanism by which living memory can be activated, maintained and amplified to embrace our contemporary experience, often in stark relief to what appears to be an otherwise utterly colonised space."

Artist Jun Yang (Taiwan and Austria) considers whether art has the potential to initiate social change or if any such efforts are inevitably co-opted by economic systems designed to maximise profit; if art is a powerless luxury in a time of social turmoil; and if artists are "the biggest secret supporters of the commercial and conservative power systems" that they criticise.

The publication discusses the work of a range of leading artists, including: Héctor Zamora (Brazil and Mexico), Theaster Gates (USA), Ivan and Heather Morison (UK), Tony Albert (Australia), Paul Chan (USA), Suzanne Lacy (USA), Kara Walker (USA), Sylvie Blocher (France), Angelica Mesiti (France and Australia), Jeanne van Heeswijk (Netherlands), and Lara Thoms (Australia).

Contributors include:
Brook Andrew, artist (Australia), Zanny Begg, artist (Australia), Jenny Bisset, Director, Blacktown Arts Centre (Australia), David Cross, Professor of Visual Arts, Deakin University (Australia), Claire Doherty, Director, Situations (UK), Blair French, Director, Curatorial and Digital, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Peter Johnson, C3West Assistant Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Janet Laurence, artist (Australia), Anne Loxley, Senior Curator, C3West, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Ivan Muñiz Reed, curator and writer (Australia and USA), Gill Nicol, Director, Audience Engagement, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Hetti Perkins, curator and writer (Australia), Amy Spiers, artist and writer (Australia), Nato Thompson, Artistic Director, Creative Time (USA), Michel Tuffery, artist (Aotearoa New Zealand), Jun Yang, artist (Taiwan and Austria)


Civic Actions is available now at the MCA Store or online 
Editors: Blair French and Anne Loxley
Publisher: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Pages: 232 plus cover

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
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