Victoria Jones chats with curator Olivia poloni to hear about her career path to date, views on public art and more...
Victoria: Could you tell us about your organisation and your role?
Olivia: - I work as a freelance curator (and specialist consultant to T Projects) and as Visual Arts Curator at Wyndham Art Gallery.
Victoria:Could you tell us very briefly about your career background and your interest in public art?
Olivia: I’ve been working as a visual art curator for almost 20 years on projects in Australia, Germany, Japan and South Korea. My practice focuses on curating contemporary art and public art commissioning.
In 2017 whilst working at Asialink Arts, I managed a major temporary public art commission by Lisa Roet for Earth Hour Beijing. The project was thrilling. I loved every part of it especially learning about the fabrication, logistics, installation, public programming and seeing the community uptake. It was fantastic. I hadn’t worked on a project previously that had such varied audience participation. It was wonderful to see the community get so much out of it. This is what piqued my interest in public art. Shortly after I met Victoria Jones at T Projects and we started working together.
Victoria:What is your role in the commissioning of public art?
Olivia: I support T Projects in the commissioning of public art for their clients, who include large infrastructure projects like rail, public art in hospitals and local council. I develop project briefs and research artists whose practice would fit into the particular brief for each site. This could be responding to the environment, history of the location, design requirements, etc.
Victoria:What do you consider to be the benefits, or role, of public art?
Olivia: To share contemporary art to the wider community, outside the gallery space. Public art activates public spaces and breaks down the assumed elitism or complexity of contemporary art. It creates dialogue and can change people’s attitudes. Contemporary art comments on the times, public art creates a monument to these times.
Victoria:What do you consider the risks, or downsides, of public art to be?
Olivia: I guess a downside could be the criticism, that not all the community will like or understand it, or the reason for spending money on it. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. It opens up a conversation. Maintenance is also a downside, if the work is not maintained properly and degrades it compromises the integrity of the work.
Victoria:What opportunities does public art bring to projects or to society more generally?
Olivia: Public art forges connections within the community. It allows for appreciation for a community’s cultural identity. It presents an opportunity to disrupt the hum drum of the everyday and creates community spaces for gathering and learning.
Victoria:What do you consider to be the most challenging aspects of commissioning public art?
Olivia: There are a lot of stakeholders included in commissioning public art and it’s challenging to make everyone happy. You are often coordinating and introducing very new processes. Managing people’s expectations can be difficult. It’s important to be transparent and clear from the onset, and developing very details briefs.
Victoria:What is your favourite example of public art, either in Australia or globally and why?
Olivia: Most memorable would be Louise Borgeoise’s ‘Maman’ in Roppongi, Tokyo. The scale and ability to interact with it from different angles and positions is unforgettable. I loved standing underneath it and studying the egg sack. It has resonated with me because the most recent time I experienced it was with my babies. Those early years of motherhood are so profound and fragile, like the spindly legs of the spider; so delicate but capable of extraordinary things.
Victoria:What is your least favourite example of public art, either in Australia or globally and why?
Olivia: Any white male colonialist statue/bust…