Come together: Forging publics in Brisbane’s Gallery of modern Art | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2042-793X
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7948


The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, recently staged ‘21st Century: Art of the First Decade’. The gallery spaces were replete with a commissioned slide by Carsten Höller, an installation of Rivane Neuenschwande’s I Wish Your Wish (2003), a table of white Legos, a room of purple balloons and other participatory or interactive artworks designed to engage multiple publics and encourage audience participation in a variety of ways. Many of the featured projects used day-to-day experiences and offered new conceptions about art practice and what they can elicit in their public – raise awareness about local issues, help audiences imagine different ways of negotiating their environs or experi-ence a museum in a new way. At times, the bottom floor galleries resembled a theme park – adults and children playing with Legos and using Höller’s slide.

This article examines the benefits and limitations of such artistic interventions by relating the GoMA exhibition to Brisbane City Council’s campaign of ‘Together Brisbane’ (featuring images of Neunenschwande’s ribbons); a response to the devastation brought to the city and its surrounds in January 2011. During the Brisbane floods, GoMA’s basement was damaged, the museum closed and upon reopening, visitor numbers soared. In this context, GoMA’s use of engaged art practice – always verging on the ephemeral and ‘fun’ – has been used to project a wider notion of a collective urban public. What questions does this raise, not only regarding the cultural politics around the social and participatory ‘turn’ in art practice, but its use to address a much wider urban public in a moment of crisis.


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