But is it art?

by Katie Anderson

As ever, post project, the cogs finally start whirring and something close to cohesiveness starts to emerge from the fog that has been intensive creation, production, etc

Working as part of the stove network has led me down a different route in some senses in tends of artistic output, as for the first time in a long time I step away – albeit, cautiously – from the realm of the art object.

Love an art object.

Love an art object…

I’ve long been interested in the notion of socially-engaged artwork, and of something more ephemeral, less permanent or perhaps fleeting has long been a fascination of mine. Lately, we have come to the age old question, ‘but is it art?’ on more than one project which has led me to wonder why, when any object can be considered an artwork, as can many sounds, actions, movements and words be considered artworks, why this can not be further disseminated into the [realm] of events:

An artistic outcome as a gathering, a dinner


Image: Galina Walls Photography. Parking Space. The Stove Network.

An artistic outcome as the creation of a space, the curation of a space


Image: Cate Ross. Parking Space. The Stove Network.

The event as an artwork


Image: Galina Walls Photography. Nithraid 2014. The Stove Network.

By contextualising, framing a moment in time as an artist (discuss authorship of such events), the work seeks to engage an audience in a deeper connection, awareness, experience of a place.

This, to me, seems a logical progression from the site-specific artwork, of which I have long been interested in.

The lead artist (again, see authorship) is then responsible for creation – physically, visually, conceptually – the space, the site, the place.

This space is then activated through the (perhaps, temporary) inhabitation, or occupation (occupy, difficult word) of that space by people, through activities, events, actions or gatherings initiated by the lead artist. Each of these actions allows the audience to experience the space in a different manner, either through direct physical experience, discussion and exchange, etc. In this way, the audience become an inherent part of the artwork. The artist as facilitator, the audience as [creators, illuminators, activators?].

In this sense it can become a fully community/participatory/public artwork as without the activation of the space, the installation effectively becomes another utopian artists vision, the isolated hermit-artist’s studio.

Authorship:    This is a curious one, highlighted in part thanks to Situations New Rules of Public Art no. 08: “Share ownership freely, but authorship wisely.” Artists are not always all-seeing and all-knowing, could these events evolve and change outwith the artist’s original intentions without disrupting the nature of it’s being art? If we are all artists (thanks Joseph Beuys), then perhaps once ‘created’, the artwork can be informed and influenced by those present – the audience as activators. Perhaps many of those in the audience can also be artists, and further instigate change as an organic and evolving mechanism that shapes and forms the ‘artwork’. [More thought required]