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Art and the City

Philosopher Henri Lefebvre predicted that the future of art would not be artistic, but urban. As Dr Nicolas Whybrow asks, how can art not be artistic? In this interview, Dr Whybrow examines how art can shift from inside institutions and onto the city streets.

Art in London

Dr Nicolas Whybrow published Art and the City (I B Tauris & Co Ltd) in 2011. The book explores the increasingly intimate relationship between artwork and its urban context. Nicolas is concerned with developing approaches to writing about artworks from the point of view of the spectator’s first-hand encounter with them in public spaces in a city.

“Art doesn’t just adorn a city,” explains Nicolas. “But, in that interactivity between people and artwork, something comes about that we call a city.”

Performance is the key linking factor between art and the city for Nicolas — in fact it represents the yeast-like ingredient that is activated by an interlocutor who simultaneously enacts the roles of participating spectator and urban dweller (or, indeed, citizen).

In the audio interview below, Nicolas explains how an extended sojourn to Berlin sparked an interest in him that led to a deeper exploration of this intricate relationship. From London to Venice, Nicolas Whybrow finds that the city changes the way 'art' is experienced in all kinds of ways.

November 2010

Dr Nicolas WhybrowDr Nicolas Whybrow is Associate Professor (Reader) in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick. His research interests revolve around site-specific practices and, in particular, performance’s relationship with the city. He authored and edited several publications including Art and the City (I.B Tauris, 2011), Street Scenes: Brecht, Benjamin and Berlin (Intellect, 2004) and Performing Cities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Alison Lapper in Trafalgar Square by Art Crimes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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