Often called upon to create an imagined community, public art has frequently been constituted as a form of social practice, indeed a kind of social work. Yet art in public places cannot solely assume the burden of social, economic or historical transformation. It can, however, point to possibilities or invoke longings or spirit or imagination. In Newcastle, the city centre could be said to lack a 'public'; no longer the hub or focus of the life of its people, there appears to be no 'critical mass' that creates its own energy. A city in transformation, it (the Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the people?) imagines a reinvigorated and repopulated space. In this paper I will critically examine the centre of Newcastle as a site for urban imaginary, drawing on for example the work of Michel de Certeau, to explore constructions of social space and the ways in which the art and architectural interventions of Back to the City attempt to reconfigure these spaces.
Back to the City: Strategies for Informal Urban Interventions: Collaboration Between Artists and Architects p. 38-47