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The Politics of Cultural Disruption

22 June 2010, Tate Modern, London

Artichoke has teamed up with Sky Arts and Tate to deliver a series of debates, or 'salons'. They will all centre around the nature and use of public space.

The first Salon in this series was called The Politics of Cultural Disruption, and focused on the politics of the public domain: who controls our public space, and who decides what is appropriate (or not).

Artichoke’s work is central to this ongoing debate. From The Sultan’s Elephant to Antony Gormley’s One & Other in Trafalgar Square, our projects positively aim to disrupt daily life, and challenge the generally-held consensus that our cities are primarily for commerce and traffic, rather than for communal activities and fun.

How we use our public space is fiercely contested, while the space itself is being increasingly privatised via the back door. Be it public art, sporting events, political demonstrations, the right to take a photograph, or simply sitting on the grass, these collective interventions are controlled and regulated. While some events are given carte blanche to close the streets, others are put under pressure to relocate into parks and gardens, or simply not permitted to take place at all.

Our inspiring and opinionated panel of speakers responded to questions from the audience and thrashed out key arguments of this significant debate. The panelists were: artist Marc Quinn; Janet Street-Porter, Vice President of the Ramblers' Association; Ruth Mackenzie, director of the Cultural Olympiad; Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; CABE Director of Public Space Sarah Gaventa; and cultural historian Gus Casely-Hayford. Curator and broadcaster Tim Marlow chaired the discussion.

If you missed this Salon, or would like to follow the further discussions, there are two more Salons to take place, the first of which will be at Tate Liverpool in October. Members of the audience will be invited to submit their own questions for discussion by the panel, giving you the chance to shape the debate once more. Details to follow soon.

“I found the event extremely enjoyable and informative. It was interesting to hear that there was a division between the emphasis on the process of creating a work of public art and…the work of art itself.” Gillian Floyd, PhD student at Liverpool University

Media Coverage and Related Links

The Guardian, feature by Sarah Gaventa, 27th June 2010

London Evening Standard, comment in Londoner’s Diary, 22nd June 2010

New Statesman, State of the Art/Art of the State: Public Art in the UK by Alexandra Coghlan, 25th June 2010

Produced in collaboration with Intelligence Squared.


  • Sir Ian Blair
  • Gus Casely-Hayford
  • Sarah Gaventa
  • Ruth MacKenzie
  • Tim Marlow
  • Janet Street-Porter
  • Marc Quinn

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