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What is a Mediator ?

What is a mediator?

Explaining what a mediator with a public art programme does is an odd one. I haven't got it down to swift succinct sound bite. Initially it has connotations of resolution from conflict, but that's not what it's about, nor is it marketing, public relations or event management. Questions might be, why would art, especially work made in the context of a place and a public require mediation? Is contemporary public arts practice so polarised that it needs to pass through an agent of interpretation? Perhaps the answer to what the mediator for this programme does lies in two actions, the unfurling of meaning and the buttressing of work.

Artists approach to making art is multi-angled and is as diverse as the worlds they respond to. Mediation gives meaning and additional support to the artist through thoughtful collaboration. However are there wider questions emerging about the expected reach of artist's work?

The reality of the mediation in this context is to think about the site of the artist's imagination and to support them and the commissioners through transition to the; realised, observed, reflected, the hidden or deflected work, that will arise from this two year project.

The idea is achieve this with the needs and responses of all in mind. The needs of all is not a euphemistic way of skipping over the fact that this is a state sponsored programme which carries with it clear terms and conditions. For the In context 3 project the artists set the scope, depth and temperature of the relationships they make. It would be crass to condense, such an evolved programme as In Context 3 into questions of who is in the service of whom, however the mediator is also sighted here if needed.  I recently came across a public art website with a banner head-line and a link to a paper titled ...“The Dangers of an Open Brief”... regrettably I couldn't think of an artist to with whom it would be dangerous to work with....difficult maybe, as it is for many artists to work through the unfamiliar quirks of organizations. Mutually supporting openness can be difficult. There is some pressure on the artist to describe thought in a language counter their more natural language which in the case of In Context 3 are permutations of visual art, music and literature. Mediation has a role here.

The general management of public art through local authorities tends to lean towards systematisation as a methodology of transparency. This effectively means that many public art programmes have an unfair bias towards non-transparent organisational cultures or have approaches that “lock into” policy which cannot move at the pace of artist lead cultures. So in Ireland some of the best and brightest find the negotiation of perscripted outcomes, too far from their scope. They are orientated away from the structured frameworks which can be static or unyielding to arts practice and its nuances.

The importance of the In Context 3 programme is its commitment to the artist, and that it has genuinely attempted to incorporate the liberty of imagination. This is not a commission that requires a mimetic response or by the nature of its brief force artists interpolate “the system” but rather is a sincere attempt to collaborate. South Dublin's approach has been successful in attaching artists of high international repute to work on this public art programme.

In Context 3 offers artists the resources to live think with and about their work for two years in the context of the county. The programme offers the implicit acknowledgement that for the artists making good work isn't a walk across a green field, but much rougher - an attempt to make new paths. They have been offered trust coupled with expectation. Long before there is anything to be manifested and before there is a tangible the artists in this programme are supported.

Where the mediation has been is at work is somewhere round this hot spot, extrapolating, extruding thought about the place and work, its center, its collaboration. As mediator I have been thinking a lot about the imagination and the privilege that is conferred with its articulation. In Context 3 has been generously developed, it supports outcomes that are non-prescriptive and is understanding and sensitive to the fact that work evolves over time.

Sarah Searson, 2007


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In Context 3, South Dublin County Council, Tallaght, Dublin 24. | Tel. 01 4149000 | Email Us