Public Thinking

Public Space and Public Art

A playful debate moderated by Stefan Horn (urban dialogues)
in co-operation with Namibian Art Association
Respondents: Ndapewa Fenny Nakanyete, Ellison Tjirera, Natache Sylvia Iilonga



The public space is a place that is generally open and accessible to everybody and doesn’t belong to an individual person or a private company. This includes roads and pavements, parks and squares in our cities. To a certain extent, also public libraries, stadiums, public swimming pools, government buildings or even shopping malls can be considered as semi-public spaces with limited accessibility as they are restricted to opening hours or privately owned and managed.

The »public sphere«, a term originally coined by prestigious German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, is an area of social life where members of society participate in a discussion that influences political action. In the public sphere, it is not the social status of the participants that matters, but the quality of their arguments. Hence, everyone is entitled to participate in the public sphere and then influence the direction of current political and social affairs.

In this sense, cultural and artistic practices may be considered as attempts to examine the notion of the ‘public’ and create an ‘ideal’ public sphere.

During our debate we discussed the meaning(s) of public space and shares ideas on how public art projects can contribute to the public sphere, with a particular focus on the city of Windhoek. This inaugural discussion will be carried on by a 2-3 day workshop for arts practitioners in early June which would then lead to an opening of a »Public Thinking« exhibition later in 2020 at the NAA.

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