Public: Art/Culture/Ideas

Public is a unique interdisciplinary journal that explores contemporary cultural issues. Bridging scholarly and critical studies with artistic practices, the journal provides a forum in which international artists, critics and theorists exchange ideas on topics previously segregated by ideological boundaries.

Public is published by the Public Access Collective, which was founded out of a shared need to be part of a community-based organization that is open to innovative ways for curating the visual arts in the public domain. Working to organize its projects, the group functions mainly in curatorial and research capacities.

The current members of the Public Access Collective are Ken Allan, Lang Baker, Chloë Brushwood-Rose, Nancy Campbell, Christine Davis, Caitlin Fisher, Susan Lord, Janine Marchessault, Dorit Namaan, Deborah Root, and Kathryn Walter.

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Public 37, "Public?" (2008), co-edited by Aleksandra Kaminska, Janine Marchessault and Jason Rovito

Public 37: Public? is an anniversary issue; a celebration of twenty years of critical thinking and creative engagement with the notion of the public—as imaginary relation, politico-juridical construct, and material spatial practice. And yet, as much as it is a time of celebration, an anniversary simultaneously invites pause, the reflection of return. Although we, as editors, sought to honour this impressive history, we similarly wanted to ask whether today, in 2008—7,300 days and 36 issues later—the notion of public, and the journal founded upon it, might just find itself out of date. Thus, with this issue, we have not tried to create a retrospective of the rich ideas that have developed across the various themes and editorial undertakings of the journal (with the important exception of a detailed archive of this history, which appears at the end of this issue), nor have we tried to provide a comprehensive summary of the historical debates surrounding the meaning of the public. Rather, in seeking to capture the journal’s ambition to interrogate and complicate this very terrain, we have replaced the period with the question mark: is public still a useful term with which we can think about culture and politics, art and technology? Does it remain relevant to our efforts to define the political and imagine new forms of intervention, engagement, and interference that may transform the parameters of citizenship, community, and our understandings of democracy? In short: does public mean anything anymore?

Articles for download from this issue:

Aleksandra Kaminska, Janine Marchessault, and Jason Rovito, "Introduction"
Aleksandra Kaminska, "Towards an Urban Aesthetics" (Book review of The Aesthetics of Human Environments and Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts).
Angela Joosse, Aleksandra Kaminska, and Shana MacDonald, "Collect My Junk"
Jason Rovito, "On the Poetics of Protest"


Public 32, "Urban Interventions" (2005), co-edited by Saara Liinamaa, Janine Marchessault and Karyn Sandlos

Devoted to the idea and practice of urban interventions, Public 32 is tied to Urban Interventions: A Symposium on Art and the City which took place at the Drake Hotel in April 2005. The collection of essays and artists’ projects builds upon the original event to bring together critical theorists, filmmakers, visual artists, architects, and designers who use visual culture to investigate, document, and describe the changing relationships between art, urban environments, and citizenship.

Articles for download from this issue:

Saara Liinamaa, "Of Treasures and Trash: BookCrossing, Mark Dion’s Tate Thames Dig and the (lost) objects of urban intervention"
The Pedestrian Mob, "Free Parking Space: Elementary Exercises in Auto-Intervention” (See also Free Parking Space in the Visible City archive)
Nicholas Balaisis, "Driving Affect: The Car and Kiarostami’s Ten"


Public 31, “Digital Poetics and Politics” (2005), co-edited by Glenn Gear, Susan Lord, Dorit Naaman, Matt Soar and Miriam Verburg

For well over a decade, we have seen the flourishing of personal publishing, home music recording, web movies, and alternative journalism using the web, email, satellites, etc. But these phenomena—which can be seen as democratizing the media institutions of music, literature, art and film—are also met with increasing modes of corporate control and sanctions.

The combined DVD/Website that comprise this special issue of Public provides responses to such issues and conditions, which are inextricable from global networks, flows of capital, and migration.

Among contributions from international media artists and academics, Public 31 features the outline of a collaborative project by Professors Susan Lord (Queen’s University) and Janine Marchessault (Director of the Visible City Project, York University). Entitled "Translocal Connectivities and Citizenship Practices in the New Media Arts," this program of research draws out a network of relations between five cities: Havana, Merida, Helsinki, Vienna, and Toronto. The study undertakes a detailed analysis of contemporary artists’ groups, collective projects and exhibitions that use new media technologies (internet, digital media, cell phones) to increase trans-local connections and civic participation, and to innovate artistic forms out of intercultural collaboration and circulation.

The Visible City Project + Archive will serve to preserve the research materials and make them available to new media researchers.


Public 29, “Localities” (Summer 2004), co-edited by Saara Liinamaa, Janine Marchessault and Christine Shaw

Locality as dwelling and imaginative horizon can be seen as an expressive metaphor for the distinctiveness of cultures shaping and shaped by the global urban landscape. Artists, activists, and social theorists increasingly engage with the local and localities through an orientation towards, and circulation of, actions grounded in immediacy, ephemeral events, “interventions,” and lived situations.

This issue of Public approaches the concept of locality in a dialectical fashion—seeing in it new possibilities for trans-localism, diverse coalitions, and critical engagements as well as new reactionary articulations of market fundamentalism, and commodified difference.

Articles for download from this issue:

Saara Liinamaa, "Awaiting the Disaster: Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project"
Christopher Smith, "'Whose Streets?': Urban Social Movements and the Politicization of Space"
Charles Finley, "A New Role for Cities?: An interview with Jane Jacobs"



Visible City: Project + Archive is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of CanadaCanada Research Chairs, York Research, Ontario Innovation Trust, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.