Environmental Art and the Production of Publics: Responding to Environmental Change

By Emily Potter.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Environmental crises around the world have inspired an outpour of creative response. As the effects of climate change increasingly manifest, environmental art is being politically and pedagogically mobilised for ameliorative strategies. The rubric that instrumentalist, techno-scientific approaches to environmental stress (and attendant social distress) cannot solely provide solutions to this challenge has found increasing acceptance. The concern of this paper, however, is the limited understanding of public art’s capacity that is perpetuated by certain trends in environmental art in which the work is charged with communicative responsibility. Connected to the representational and instructive traditions of public art, this tendency is further informed by the influence of the ‘information-deficit model’ in environmental communication research: a concept that asserts a straightforward connection between information provision, individual awareness and collective action on a concern. The idea that public art can function as a conduit for knowledge, which in turn will inspire new moral positions and behaviours, absents the art work from the process of knowledge-making and the production of conditions that enable new practice. Arguing for a revised approach to the environmental possibilities of public art, this paper will propose that in thinking about environmental transformation as essentially unrepresentable, a different mode of public engagement with the issue is enabled.

Keywords: Public Art, Environmental Change, Publics

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.81-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 532.746KB).

Dr. Emily Potter

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Design, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Emily Potter is a Research Fellow in the Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. She works in the fields of creative research and the intersections of cultural theory and environmental practice. She is the co-editor of Fresh Water: New Perspectives on Water in Australia (MUP, 2007), and her academic articles have appeared in both Australian and international journals including Antipodes, Media International Australia, Cultural Studies Review, and Continuum.


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