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JustShare lecture: "The Art of Share Spaces: Where is the social value?"

with Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts, Kings College London

Wednesday 5th June 2013 at 6.05pm

St Mary-le-Bow


The Revd. John Valentine chaired the event and welcomed everyone to the evening, with a brief outline of the objectives of JustShare.


Ben presented a fascinating insight into the “art of shared spaces”. He started off talking about his local area where villages are growing and the local village is engaging in “art” and what the shared space can look like in future developments – this includes street signs and benches!


He then looked back at history and what the common focus of “shared space” has been in the past. At the centre has been the common object of love that  human society has sought to have there. A pluralistic society can often be less certain of this truth.


Ben moved on to look at a range of different art through the ages including frescos that reflect a life lived collectively where the images integrate with the community of which they are a part such as the frescos at San Marco in Florence. He looked at art that has the Virgin as the protector of a City and as people express devotion to the Virgin, it also reflects a devotion to the city, the place. And he commented on statues and how they often reflected in the past, a common object of love and devotion such as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.  And when a regime changes, an expression of that change, may be the dismantling of the visual representation such as the statue of Saddam Hussain.


It was fascinating to hear that just as expressions of speaking have changed, so have visual expressions in art. Ben compared this to forms of speech such as the indicative or the imperative which express a confidence, an assurance in how things are and who we are. Today, modes of speech are often more interrogative using moods such as the subjunctive and optative and this has given rise in the arts to alternative ways of visual art – such as “what shall we put on the fourth plinth?” and a generally more "playful" approach to art.


He gave examples of anamorphic street art such as chalk drawing which has a different effect depending on the angle you stand at, and the Cloud Gate in Chicago which gives different images of the individual and the city of Chicago as you walk around and under it. Art is transformational, trying to change the way one sees the world.

However, there is perhaps a move back to earlier approaches – such as Anthony Gormley’s “Iron Man” sculpture in Birmingham which is imposing and fundamental in scale and yet represents the ordinary citizen.


As a final thought, Ben returned to the idea of art capturing the common objective of love and how that was objective was captured in the Olympic torch at the 2012 Games.


The audience were a very engaged group and questions ranged from graffiti as art to the differences between Parish Churches and Cathedrals as "shared spaces" for art and discussions continued over Fairtrade refreshments.





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