Emplacing and Excavating the City: Art, Ecology, and Public Space in New Delhi
This article explores the politics of place-making in the context of 48°C Public.Art.Ecology, a public art festival that took place in and around Delhi in 2008. The site-specific works were exhibited at eight locations, were made by more than twenty national and international artists, and were accessed through the new metro transport system. In this analysis, the exhibition sites and artworks are understood as “in-between” places that function as zones of contestation and complex spatial relations. This approach integrates urban history with present-day strategies of urban planning and invites new forms of engagement with and in public space in order to reflect environmental change and urban transformation. Of key relevance for this article is how contemporary art in India “goes public.” More specifically the study examines how the art and ecology festival activated notions of public space as something imbued with different histories of access, imagining, and attachment. The main themes of climate change and art in public are thus weighed and interpreted differently by the festival’s diverse participants (e.g., the Goethe-Institut as organizer and international or local artists). Through a discussion of several public artworks, this article will use the concepts of emplacement and excavation as a means to approach different layers and aspects of urban ecologies and of temporary space use, arguing that a public art festival can also be exclusive.