Monument to Now: MoreArt 2020

Monument to Now: MoreArt 2020 is Moreland City Council’s eleventh annual exhibition of public art. This year it had several flaws, chiefly that it is not an exhibition of public art but an exhibition of contemporary art in public space. For public art should be for all the public, not only a contemporary art audience with time, mobile phones, headphones and a tertiary education.

detail from Patrick Pound’s The following

Contemporary art appropriates and colonises sites taking them over and exploit them for art. “Monument to Now” suggests a contemporary version of a triumphal arch celebrating this artistic colonisation.

Every year the curator and the participating artists in MoreArt put on a set of blinkers so that they seldom see the street art, graffiti and guerrilla gardens that are going on along the bike path. And there is great, long guerrilla garden along the bike path featuring seating areas, free libraries, children’s play area and lots of junk used for pot plants. Coburg Urban Forest is very active in this area.

Officially MoreArt 2020 goes along the Upfield Bike Path from Coburg Station to Gowrie Station but actually only from O’Hea Street to Forest Road. This northern location is not one of the problems with the exhibition. It is a good ride through some interesting areas with plenty to see including an old mortuary train carriage in the Fawkner Cemetery, yellow ribbons dedicated to free Julian Assange and pieces by Discarded.

This is in contrast to MoreArt 2020, where there was often nothing to see. The title of Liquid Architecture’s work Songs you can’t hear summed up much of the exhibition. Invisible public art doesn’t work like invisible art in an art gallery. To expect that the audience is going to have brought headphones and be willing to spend over an hour walking and listening is a bit much. I came on my bicycle, and the dark clouds threatened rain. So no to the work of Catherine Clover’s Lament, Sarah Walker’s Legs Like Pistons, or Emma Gibson’s A walk from station to station.

I simply couldn’t find Adam John Cullen or Mira Oosterweghel’s work and consequently I only saw two of the works in MoreArts. Patrick Pound’s The following, a series of posters stuck to the bike path; found photographs of women seen from behind and almost predictably, there was a woman with her shopping walking up the hill ahead of me. And, Michael Prior’s trio of simple kinetic sculpture Flos Movens enhancing the space next to the Renown Street Community Orchard. They were engaging even though only one was working fully due to limitations of the photovoltaic cells and the gunmetal grey sky.

Michael Prior Flos Movens

MoreArt 2020 was a contactless, COVID-safe way to see an exhibition just not an exhibition that I would recommend to many people.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

2 responses to “Monument to Now: MoreArt 2020

  • Jessie Scott

    Hi Mark,
    some very valid criticisms here: even as one of the artists, I found the interface for the festival confusing and the works inaccessible if you were trying to access them IRL (ironically, given it’s public art).
    To put some context though, the festival was developed over the time of the pandemic, with continually shifting dates and possibilities of what could be. It was originally going to open while we were still in hard lockdown, when artists couldn’t even access the sites to develop their ideas, let alone to install them with other people.
    The dates got pushed back a bit, meaning that it opened at the same time as lockdown was ending, but still seemed to be geared for a mostly online experience.
    It’s been a really weird year for everyone, artists and arts workers included, and although I completely take your points about how festivals generally approach public art, as something parachuted in by a few privileged actors, as someone working on a piece for this show I know it wasn’t like that in intention or spirit, but that maybe there was a disconnect between intention and outcome because of the tremendously strange situation it was developed in.
    Perhaps we all just should’ve taken the year off!
    Cheers
    Jessie

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