At RMIT University, we pride ourselves in achieving outcomes that not only prepare for, but enhance the future careers of our graduates. ‘Work ready’ is a term often used to describe these qualities; those who complete our programs are seen as future leaders in, indeed the shapers of, the ‘world of work’. In this sense, every graduate works in public space.
But what do we mean by the term ‘work’ in the field of contemporary art? Do we mean the artworks themselves; or, work as practice? Is this working for the betterment of society; or, supplying the art market, that supports artists’ and gallerists’ livelihoods? Do we mean work undertaken in the wider ‘creative industries’, an increasingly important dimension of national and international economies; or, in so-called ‘cottage industries’ - local, often not for profit communities of practitioners that focus on felt rather than theoretical issues, to develop their own models of exchange and sustainability?
We can use the notion of ‘engagement’ to consider the role of public art in this world of work: engaging across disciplines, nationalities and cultures; but also with industries, communities and the world at large.
The artists discussed in this special issue of the Journal of Public Space have each identified their individual response to the role of art ‘working’ in the world. Indeed, this edition is characterised by the diversity of practices it encompasses and how work and activism can coincide.
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