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European Expert Meeting on Percent for Art Schemes

Final Discussion

In the first instance, a discussion of the terminology to be used for art in public space arose in response to Jeroen Boomgaard's presentation.

Tom van Gestel suggested that the term public space no longer be used. He felt that this would give ideas on the topic a new direction. The term has almost become a brand name. Declan O'Carroll suggested using the term civic space. Boomgaard said that it is not easy to see what effect such a change in terminology might have. Neither did he think that the use of another term would make much difference. In fact you would then just make a new set of rules and regulations, so that it would only be a form of window-dressing. Kjell Strandqvist did not see the sense of a new name either. As far as he was concerned the question of ownership of the space is the central theme here, and this is described perfectly well with the existing term. Van Gestel, on the other hand, thought that the public space as such no longer really exists. Maggie Bolt agreed. The terms refer more to how we use the space. Private is home and everything outside of it we call public space. Much of the latter space, however, comprises shops, or publicity space.

According to Boomgaard the more we talk about public space the less there is of it. 'Common property' is a notion which is disappearing and this is advantageous for those in power because they do not have to worry as much about this space. It also means that less public money is released for it, and that we are therefore dependent on private investors.

The question is whether this is a positive development or not. It is often said that you should have more faith in project developers in this respect; they are not as obtuse as they used to be. But why doesn't this work both ways?

Boomgaard stated that project developers should be allowed to pay but not decide. Art is a gift.

According to Strandqvist this can be taken care of by setting clear rules at the purchase, but Van Gestel emphasised that the problem does not lie with the legislation. It is more a question of wanting to take responsibility for projects in public space. Only recently a project in the eastern part of the country had to be stopped because no one wanted to take on the responsibility for the future. Bolt also recognised the trend but thinks that it is due to fluctuation.

Vera Moosmayer felt that the discussion was getting too theoretical. Passing the buck is nothing new and you should not get too worried about it. Solutions can always be found in dialogue. She thinks that it is more meaningful to talk to one another about concrete projects, otherwise you talk in a vacuum.

Tom van Gestel understood her remark but thought that the substantive effects of developments must not be denied. There is not only a technical privatisation but also a mental one. In discussion on public space a whole new terminology will gradually be used, one concerning rules of conduct and behavioural codes. Perhaps we should not exaggerate the problem, but we should certainly take up the challenges of such developments.

Bolt emphasised that in theory our public space does have legislation and regulations, but that nobody knows them. Socially desirable behaviour and respect for other people are of more importance here. Under pressure from current political and social developments the basic principles are marginalised and threatened by groups. This is a big problem which should not be taken lightly.