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2013 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Encountering Screen Art on the London Underground

Authors: Janet Harbord, Tamsin Dillon

Published in: Public Space, Media Space

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan UK


For the past 40 years, the material form of public art works has included media of various kinds. The use of film and video in public art practice breaks with a tradition of fixed, monumental public art, the memorial culture that writer W. G. Sebald describes as the official sanctioning of forgetting (Sebald, 2005). In a culture of moving image public installations, by contrast, the architectural fabric of the city becomes dynamic, uncertain and a fluid surface suggestive of the contingency of urban life. Each time we encounter a video screen the images may vary, depending, for example, on the particular intersection of a looped program and a finely timed daily commute. As time-based media, the presence of moving image screens in the city mixes with the various temporal flows of urban space. Each artwork is, of course, functioning in relation to a given environment, drawing on a tradition of site-specific art practice that became prominent in the 1970s (Kwon, 2003). The majority of what might be called intermedial public artworks has been commissioned for a particular location, negotiating with factors of history and neighborhood, material properties and environmental atmosphere, and the habitual and exceptional uses of a space by various communities, commuters, tourists and individuals. Site-specific art as it was conceived over 40 years ago challenges a heritage of timeless and universal public art, inserting into urban contexts artworks that surprise and engage; perhaps most significantly, many of these artworks can only be understood within the dynamic situation of their context (Finkelman, 2000).

Encountering Screen Art on the London Underground
Janet Harbord
Tamsin Dillon
Copyright Year
Palgrave Macmillan UK