Public Relations 6/ Engagement, Empathy, Collaboration


Huddlewear, Rhona Byrne,

Click this link: Rhona Byrne – Huddle Tests, Le Cool Dublin

Huddlewear is a series of wearable artworks/social clothing created by [Irish] artist Rhona Byrne. The interconnected designs of the garments can be worn by pairs and groups and aim to explore the wearer’s sense of self and vulnerability during moments of interaction and gathering…Huddlewear is a tool for activating exchanges in relationships between individuals, groups and communities…Huddlewear is for building relations; trust, connections, empathy; for fixing relations that are broken, for speeding up or slowing down a relationship process. Artist: Rhona Byrne

Theaster Gates, How to Revive a Neighbourhood with Imagination, Beauty and Art

Artist Theaster Gates on Brilliant Ideas, Bloomberg

Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates has developed an expanded practice that includes space development, object making, performance and critical engagement with many publics. Founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, Gates is currently a Professor in the Department of Visual Art and Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago. (Artist Statement, Theaster Gates,

In the late 1990s participatory concepts have been expanded upon by a new generation of artists identified under the heading of RELATIONAL ART or Relational Aesthetics. This is a term coined by the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud to describe a range of open-ended art practices, concerned with the network of human relations and the social context in which such relations arise. Relational Art also stresses the notion of artworks as gifts, taking multiple forms, such as meals, meetings, parties, posters, casting sessions, games, discussion platforms and other types of social events and cooperations. In this context, emphasis is placed on the use of the artwork. Art is regarded as information exchanged between the artist and the viewer which relies on the responses of others to make it relational.

Participatory and Relational Art raise important questions about the meaning and purpose of art in society, about the role of the artist and the experience of the audience as participant. (What is Participatory and Relational Art? IMMA)

Relational art involves human relations and society. The imagery is active and acting out.

“Art is an activity consisting in producing relationships with the world with the help of signs, forms, actions and objects” (Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics)


Photo: Samantha Hill, The Great Migration, The Kinship Project Archive contains over 3000 candid & professional family pictures (vintage photos, scrapbooks, tintypes & digital images), mostly of African Americans from across the country. The project was installed in Faheem Majeed’s ‘How to Build a Shack’ project

By assuming the role of artist/archivist/anthropologist, I engage various communities to collaborate with me in developing new work by collecting personal stories and/or family photographs donations through interview sessions. I then utilize the oral narratives and photographs as source material to develop multimedia installations and performances. The goal of these artworks is to create a memorial to a historic moment, which reflects a significant component of a region’s culture. My art facilitation projects can take many forms, including oral narrative/slide show projection installations, pop-up vintage photograph interventions, and social dance performances within landmark buildings. I also invite the public to become an active participant in my exhibitions by contributing notes and artifacts to the installation.

Samantha Hill, The Kinship Project,


Picture this. You’re one of France’s best-known living conceptual artists. You’re 51 and visiting Berlin. Your mobile beeps, it’s an email from your boyfriend. In a hideously self-absorbed message about human emotion, he dumps you electronically, saying it hurts him more than you. He signs off: “Take care of yourself.” You’re heartbroken. Then you think of its potential as art.

Sophie Calle has filled the French pavilion of the Venice Biennale with a praised exhibition about her emailed dumping letter. Over two years later, she distributed the missive to 107 women professionals, photographed them reading it and invited them to analyse it, according to their job. The ex’s grammar and syntax have been torn apart by a copy editor, his manners rubbished by an etiquette consultant and his lines pored over by Talmudic scholars. He has been re-ordered by a crossword-setter, evaluated by a judge, shot up by a markswoman, second-guessed by a chess player and performed by actress Jeanne Moreau. A forensic psychiatrist decided he was a “twisted manipulator”. The temple to a woman scorned is entitled “Take care of yourself” (Prenez soin de vois), immortalising lines that Calle, if she hadn’t had recourse to the international art world, might have read again and again in tears.

“The idea came to me very quickly, two days after he sent it,” she said. “I showed the email to a close friend asking her how to reply, and she said she’d do this or that. The idea came to me to develop an investigation through various women’s professional vocabulary.” (He Loves Me Not, A Guardian Article by Angelique Chrisafis)

Sophie Calle: Taking to Strangers, The Whitechapel Gallery

Sophie Calle: He Loves Me Not, The Guardian, 16 June 2007


Touch Sanitation 1979-1980, artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles shakes hands with 8500 sanitation workers in New York thanking them for their services. (Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York). “[Ukeles] documented her activities on a map, meticulously recording her conversations with the workers. Ukeles documented the workers’ private stories, fears, castigations, and public humiliations in an attempt to change some of the negative vernacular words used in the public sphere of society. In this way, Ukeles used her art as an agent of change to challenge conventional language stereotypes [of sanitation workers]” (Source: Ecological Restoration by Don Krug,

Trash Talk: The Department of Sanitation’s Artist in Residence is a Real Survivor

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Washing, Tracks, Maintenance: Outside, 1973


Photo: X-PO, Deirdre O’Mahony,

X-PO started life as a public art project that sought to actively engage individuals and communities in Kilnaboy in County Clare, by giving time and space to re-viewing and re-imagining the social and cultural priorities in what is a rapidly changing rural landscape and an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Burren. Kilnaboy is a scattered parish of a few hundred households. A national school and a church are all that it possesses in the way of civic amenities. Once there were a couple of shops, a blacksmith, and a Post Office. But, like much in rural Ireland today, that was once upon a time. The changing face of farming and the necessity for many of a long daily commute to and from work in nearby towns and cities have presented a challenge to rural communities like Kilnaboy.

In order to openly reflect upon these challenges Deirdre O’Mahony re-opened the former post office in order to activate a public discussion on space, place and ideas of ‘community’ in the locality. The building is a familiar, non-institutional space, the former home of post master Mattie Rynne for the best part of seventy years. Re-opening it enabled different ‘publics’ and individuals to come together and give time and space to re-viewing, recalling and reimagining social and cultural priorities and possibilities. The creation of archives related to the personal and collective history of the site was fundamental to the activation process.

X-PO lays no claim to be representative. It is, rather, the act of participation that is at the core of the project. Written in to the organisational structure is a requirement that different members step up and take on the role of running it every two years, a model of open, democratic decision making that has been a challenged for some. To participate at X-PO means accepting difference – it performs a kind of coming together that is based on the here and now, not on a priori relations or inherited standing in the community.

Jennie Moran uses a subtle, tactical approach to respond to situations. She thinks about generosity and timing. Her work is an attempt to dismantle places into their basic the components and reassemble them so that they might function more poetically. It is usually light-hearted and energetic. Recently, however she has been considering the split second of despondency in this process, between the action of recognising unfortunate barren gaps in places, and filling them courageously. These gaps might be defined as absence of hospitality or ‘places in which one can no longer believe in anything’1 ; where stories are not allowed to accumulate. Before the sharp intake of breath that means we are ready to be strong, there is a poignant moment of sadness. Her practice is an illumination of this human frailty/vulnerability alongside a brave unyielding will to make better. 1 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University Press, 1988, ppxi


Interview with Jennie Moran

What is the story behind Luncheonette and how did you become part of it?

Luncheonette is long term art project of mine using food to reactivate/treat spaces.

I’ve been doing a lot of public art projects which looked into ways of making places or situations feel more hospitable; adding something that I felt was missing using light, shelter, warm concrete furniture. Then I got interested in food as a lovely delay tactic; a tool for assembling people and letting them loiter unselfconsciously, sharing ideas, hatching plans.


Jennie Moran
Artwork title Personal Effects


Over a number of weeks Jennie Moran visited Unit 4 of Merlin Park Hospital. This ward accommodates men and women who have recently experienced a stroke. For the most part these hospital guests have been referred from a nearby acute hospital for rehabilitation. During this time some patients and their families will make preparations for new living arrangements as a result of their stroke, thus rendering it a poignant time for patients and families.

The hospital institution also presents challenges for the patient; an abrupt loss of autonomy; cohabiting with strangers; an imposed schedule; lack of personal space. For the purpose of recovery, the focus of this facility must be the ailments that its users have in common. Individuals are distinguished by their medical requirements. Moran’s role was to quietly observe and provide a medium for the details of lives housed in this hospital ward to emerge and become visible.

Personal Effects is a project which aims to uninstitutionalise the hospital through the illumination of its inhabitants’ stories. This is done by slowly gathering fragments of lives from individuals passing through the institution and allowing these details and narratives to reappear on hospital items, such as pillowcases, thereby altering the hospital landscape. These pieces of re-appropriated bed linen will also serve as a record of a very particular time for the men and women who will have contributed towards them. Certain ideas/memories can come to the fore durings period of rehabilitation, and with a degree of fragility.

It seemed appropriate also to keep these thoughts physically close to the patients. Sleep becomes an extremely important function during neurological rehabilitation. It provides a respite from the conscious effort of relearning and a release for the imagination.




Photo: S.T.I.T.C.H.E.D, Climbing Poe Tree, Artists Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman,

Since 2005, we’ve given our audience participants the opportunity to write a part of their story on a six-inches piece of fabric. At every show we distribute cloth of many colors and sharpie markers, and people find some corner of the room to channel their deepest, darkest secrets and highest, brightest dreams. These are headlines from people who don’t own a newspaper, manifestos from people without armies, testimonies from people without tribunals, expressions from people with histories and visions.

People write about fleeing war in their countries, spending time in prison, being raped by their fathers, learning to kill their own people, about foster care, police brutality, and suicide. And they write about being the first in their family to graduate, about how they are falling in love with themselves for the first time in their lives, about surviving sexual violence and starting a women’s support group in their town, about giving birth and changing laws, starting schools and building movements. They draw pictures, and make promises; they write commitments about the things they would die for, and what they are willing to live for.

We sew the squares together as we go, and the tapestry grows bigger and bigger the farther we journey. Every show we unfurl the strips of fabric and ink, and drape them like prayer flags over stages, and prison bars, over blackboards and between trees. It is powerful to carry the stories with us—to have everyone’s strengths and struggles, tragedies and triumphs pulsating around us while we perform. It is powerful for folks to read them, recognize themselves in them, and leave a piece of their story to be stitched together with thousands of others (Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, Artist Statement, S.T.I.T.C.H.E.D.,



Photo: Dear Diary Series by Jessica Vellenga

Dear Diary is a community collaboarative art project which shares and celebrates the tradition of the diary, retelling diary entries in a public platform with a thread and needle. This exhibit celebrates the banal, pivotal, silly, sad and serious personal archives we keep. The series began during my residency at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson, Yukon Territory in October 2012. For the project I asked the public to anonymously send me diary entries on my blog, social media and by email. I have received diary entries from across North America. The diary entries were then embroidered onto vintage and antique textiles. The hankies, table linens, and assorted textiles are found in second hand stores as well as heirloom textiles given to me by friends and family. I consider working with the gifted and found textiles as a collaboration with the original creators, a way of continuing the creative process and preserving and keeping the work alive by transforming it into a work of art. (Jessica Vellenga,