ACCA’s Who’s Afraid of Public Space exhibition asks the tough questions

ACCA’s Who’s Afraid of Public Space exhibition asks the tough questions
Kaylah Joelle Baker

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is raising questions around audiences’ understanding of public space, culture and values in its latest exhibition Who’s Afraid of Public Space?

Not to be missed, the contemporary art exhibition opened in Southbank on December 4 last year and will continue through to March 20.

“Taking place at ACCA over the summer months, the project extends across the city through a number of dedicated off-site projects programmed both in the lead-up to, and throughout the exhibition, as well as through related satellite exhibitions and events programmed by institutional partners,” senior exhibition curator Miriam Kelly said.

An exhibition with multiple installations and interventions, which explore an array of themes that overlap and intersect, Who’s Afraid of Public Space? “engages contemporary art and cultural practices”.

“Who’s Afraid of Public Space? is organised according to a dispersed, distributed structure, encouraging a polyphonic and polycentric understanding of our increasingly complex public realm,” Ms Kelly said.


The exhibition is inspired by and seeks to animate recent global debates related to incursion of private interests in the public sphere, politics of land and place, and patterns of urban transformation, gentrification and technological change.


Dividing the on-site exhibition between the Gathering, Education, Reading and Project spaces, the combination of the four galleries with their diverse artists, collaborators and advisers have aided in providing a basis for conversations to escalate.

From The Ngargee Djeembana project in the Gathering Space explores the material identity of public space and country, while The Common Room in the Reading Space steps out of the norm of what is expected of a library today.

Visitors are also then invited to engage in active participation in Creating Art in Public in the Education Space and step outside of the on-site exhibition with off-site programs hinted at within The Hoarding in the Project Space.

“The number and diversity of artists, collaborators and advisors involved in Who’s Afraid of Public Space? were essential to the capacity for the project,” Ms Kelly said.

“The exhibition at ACCA was also intended to invite visitors to explore beyond the walls of the gallery and discover art back out in public space.”

Encouraging art to not be confined to four walls, “one event not to be missed” is that of DAS BOOT which will be taking place at ACCA’s forecourt on March 19.

The event will centre around an artists’ car boot sale and market with food, drink, music and festivities to entertain and intrigue visitors.

Representative of ACCA’s mission to “Do Art Differently”, Who’s Afraid of Public Space? is an exhibition that needs to be seen to be understood in its entirety.

And Ms Kelly is hopeful it will portray the “complexity of the public realm” with viewpoints and perspectives that “reflect Melbourne’s diverse community”.

“We hope the exhibition underlines the value in public space, the importance of public culture and the relevance of public institutions – as shared resources for the enjoyment and betterment of our community.”

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