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The role of artists in the public realm: an investigation into artists' generative processes in context.

Silver, Susannah


Susannah Silver


John Berry

Franco Bianchini

Anne Douglas

Seaton Baxter


A shift in practice towards a process-orientated and collaborative art practice within the strands of art practice in the public realm raises the question, what is the practical contribution artists make to society' which can only be answered by first understanding how artists work. Introducing the concepts of context, artist-led and residency with reference to the Artists Placement Group, the problematics of assessing the social contribution of context-specific art practices are presented as resting upon two difficulties, the conceptual gulf between the artworld and the public realm and the assumption that artists can or should not articulate their intentions for an artwork. Combining questions raised from practice with the problems outlined by Suzanne Lacy, the need for research into the generative process of public artists is established. The purpose of the research is to investigate and develop artists understanding of the generative process by examining the interaction of artists in contexts in the public realm and to make that information explicit. An appropriate methodology and theoretical framework is found by critically reviewing recent related practice-based research projects in Art and Design with special attention to the work of Ian Hunter on immersion strategies in rural contexts. The model of the artistic process as problem-solving, developed by J. Getzels and M. Csikszentmihalyi , is also examined against current theories in scientific research into creativity and theories of social policy problem-setting of Donald Schon and the pattern of inquiry by John Dewey and subsequently extended. Data was generated by recording the decisions and reflections of three artists carrying out an actual artist-led context-specific project in the public realm (Taming Goliath). Data gathered by using a specially adapted method (Sweatbox) were analysed by using the Generative Process Model. The results produced narratives which describe each artists experience and information on the methods artists use to interact with a context in the public realm, their intentions. The significance of the findings and the experience are discussed in relation to the work of Suzanne Lacy and Allan Kaprow with recommendations for further research. In conclusion, four areas contributing to knowledge are proposed: the extension of the Generative Process Model, the development of an methodology of analysis, the usage of the Sweatbox method and contributions to the body of knowledge of artists processes in the public realm.


SILVER, S. 1999. The role of artists in the public realm: an investigation into artists' generative processes in context. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Dec 1, 2009
Publicly Available Date Dec 1, 2009
Keywords Art; Public realm; Generative process; Artists' processes; Sweatbox
Public URL
Award Date Jun 30, 1999


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