21 January 2014 - 6:00pm

Emily Carr Lecture Theatre, South Building, Room 301, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC

Going Public: Art, Urbanism, and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century

What is the function of public art today? If art is the highest expression of our culture, might it play a role in bringing citizens together in new and unforeseen ways to recognize shared problems and devise common purposes? Might the “new urbanism” proposed by the great architect Rem Koolhass be found in new forms of participatory public art that are temporarily transforming urban spaces around the world?

The most enlightened urban planners and designers have always been interested in public art’s capacity to communicate across diverse communities, to generate new insights, and to propose generative pathways. The cities of the 21st century need to address the most pressing tensions between ecology and economy; agriculture and development; and diversity and history. The challenge is to move away from conventional top-down approaches, instead incorporating participatory and inclusive processes in urban planning.

At Emily Carr University of Art + Design on 21 January 2014, Janine Marchessault, professor of cinema and media studies at York University and a 2012 fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, will deliver a Trudeau Lecture on her experience curating a 30-artist show on the role of artists in urban planning. What if artists were to create new forms of urban planning, using their own language to address broader issues where traditional forms of political engagement, city planning, and policy development have fallen short? Can an art exhibition with a range of interdisciplinary activities foster productive conversations about our cities? These are some of the questions Marchessault’s show sought to answer in September and October 2013 with the public art intervention Land|Slide: Possible Futures. Located at Markham Museum, an open-air historic village in southern Ontario, the show ran in one of Canada’s most culturally diverse and fastest-growing cities, which spreads across one of the most agriculturally rich regions in North America and sits on the edge of Ontario’s massive, 1.8 million-acre Greenbelt, created to preserve farmland and vital natural resources. For three weeks, Land|Slide artists transformed the museum’s well-preserved historical buildings, opening them up to contemporary dialogue through surreal, utopian, and haunting artworks. They augmented the past in often humorous and always ingenious ways to suggest interwoven lines of human culture, wildlife, migration, and sustainability that must be considered as we plan and develop future landscapes.

Janine Marchessault

Through her groundbreaking creative work and research, Professor Marchessault aims to interpret and illustrate the city and its sustainability issues, combining urban planning, public art, and the media.

2012 Fellows