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  • Public Projects as Opportunities to Transform Society

    Community, Communication Design


    This is an image of the closing event of a participatory design initiative held in the North East of England earlier this year.

    In the project, over 1000 local people grew food across the town of Middlesbrough and over 6000 attended a final town meal of harvested produce.

    In his book on relational aesthetics, French curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud writes of

    the dawning of the society of extras where the individual develops as a part-time stand-in for freedom, signer and sealer of the public place.

    In discussing the work of artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Carsten Holler, Bourriaud sees in their art a reintroduction of the idea of

    ...inventing ways of being together, forms of interaction that go beyond the inevitability of families, ghettos of technological user-friendliness, and collective institutions on offer.

    In Bourriard's mind, this is an urge towards creating new models of sociability.

    In our post-industrial societies, the most pressing thing is no longer the emancipation of individuals, but the freeing-up of inter-human communications, the dimensional emancipation of existence.

    More often than not, public involvement projects keep their creative and intellectual thrust hush-hush.

    But it's interesting to start to see them in the same frame as, say, Carsten Holler's metal slides at the Tate.

    It's great to be reminded that these projects are microscopic opportunities to transform society step-by-step.

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