29 Nov 2021

Who’s Afraid of Public Space?

4 December 2021 – 20 March 2022 

ACCA’s multifaceted project of exhibitions and programs exploring the role of public culture, the contested nature of public space, and the character and composition of public life, opens this coming Saturday, 4 December.


Who’s Afraid of Public Space? continues ACCA’s Big Picture series, which explores contemporary art’s relation to wider social, cultural and political contexts. Engaging contemporary art and cultural practices to consider critical ideas as to what constitutes public culture and to ask who is public space for, the exhibition is inspired by and seeks to animate recent global debates related to the incursion of private interests in the public sphere, the politics of land and place, and patterns of urban transformation, gentrification and technological change.

Through multiple installations and interventions, the exhibition reflects on the dynamic relations between urban design, safety and surveillance, as well as unsanctioned counter-positions of self-organisation, improvisation and play. Works in the exhibition also span themes of work, housing, democracy and social enterprise as they play out at the intersections and overlaps between private and public, corporate and state, profit and public good.

Promoting the role of the public gallery as a civic space, ACCA’s four galleries have been transformed into spaces for gathering, education, reflection and debate – including the major keynote commission of Ngargee Djeembana, a gathering space by N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM in collaboration with Sarah Lynn Rees. Who’s Afraid of Public Space? also extends beyond the walls of ACCA with artists’ projects, installations and events taking place in public spaces across Melbourne and online, including:

  • ABORIGINAL LAND: SSID 2021, a new commission by interdisciplinary Taungurung artist Steven Rhall. Join participating wireless networks, including at ACCA, to engage in a spontaneous consideration of First Nations sovereignty
  • In a special one-off event on December 11, APHIDS screening of DESTINY 2019 will take place in the Cardigan House Car Park on Grattan Street. This moving-image work has been made in collaboration with gig economy workers and explores the personal and global experiences of precarious labour.
  • On a busy stretch of footpath on St Kilda Road, pedestrians will encounter a series of ambiguous public announcements, broadcast intermittently along the concourse between the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall.  The project, titled Public Announcements 2 2021, by Laresa Kosloff, draws on etiquette blogs and specialist websites to reflect on the language and expectations of the public realm. From February 4 to 20 March.
  • David Wadleton’s historical photographs of his inner-northern neighbourhood will be placed in the windows of a selection of High Street shops from Northcote through to Thornbury, from December through to March. The project, titled From noxious trades to boutique bars – a Northcote pictorial 1980-2021, traces the changing face of Melbourne’s inner-north
  • Based at Monash University, the cultural research collective XYX Lab are known for their data visualisation projects that address gendered experiences of violence, safety and public space.  From December through to March, an urban street poster and billboard project titled Keep Running will reflect on the experiences women and gender-diverse people across hundreds of sites around Melbourne.
  • Hoang Tran Nguyen’s Work, Worker 2022 invites the audience to participate in three karaoke sessions featuring a songbook of work and worker related songs, taking place in Footscray on Thursday 20 January, at University Square on Wednesday 16 February and at Westgate Park Friday 4 March
  • Beth Arnold and Sary Zananiri revisit their urban public sculpture Within Foundations 2012 in Officer in outer-metropolitan Melbourne. This  VicUrban Commission took the form of a sculpture/installation drawn from the floor plans of houses in nearby estates, which is now nestled within a thriving community. Ten years later, a new work, Building Foundations 2021- provides an opportunity to consider the changing nature of public art, local communities, and public and private housing development. Running over the summer months, visitors are also invited to join Arnold and Zananiri for a community picnic and discussion to share their insights on the work and life in the area on Saturday 12 February 2022.

A number of satellite exhibitions and events will be programmed and presented by cultural partners over the Australian summer months, including Abbotsford Convent, Arts Project Australia, Blak Dot Gallery, Bus Projects, Chunky Move, City of Melbourne Footscray Community Arts, Metro Tunnel Creative Program, Moreland City Council, and Testing Grounds.


Guled Abdulwasi, Idil Ali, APHIDS, Beth Arnold and Sary Zananiri, Atong Atem, Timmah Ball, Joey Barrilo, Tony Birch, N’arweet Carolyn Briggs and Sarah Lynn Rees, Jon Campbell, Michael Candy, Simona Castricum, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Chunky Move, Boris Cipusev, Nicola Cortese / Lauren Crockett / Stephanie Pahnis, Ross Coulter, Sophie Cunningham, Keg de Souza, Field Theory, Eleanor Jackson, Aarti Jadu, Natalie Jurrjens, Laresa Kosloff, Rhys Lee, Eugenia Lim, James MacSporren, Grace McQuilten and Amy Spiers with The Social Studio / Outer Urban Projects / Youthworx, John Meade, Clement Meadmore, Eden Menta, Kent Morris, Callum Morton, Jacqui Munoz, Jenny Ngo, James Nguyen and Victoria Pham, Tom Nicholson, Rose Nolan, Georgia Nowak, Open Spatial Workshop (Terri Bird, Bianca Hester, Natasha Johns-Messenger, Scott Mitchell), Oscar Perry and Esther Stewart, Kerrie Poliness, Reko Rennie, Steven Rhall, Roberta J Rich, Anthony Romangano, Morwenna Schenck, Sibling Architecture, Mikaela Stafford, Hoang Tran Nguyen, Christos Tsiolkas, Isadora Vaughan, David Wadelton, XYX Lab, Jenny Zhe Chang

Who’s Afraid of Public Space? has been programmed through a collective curatorial model, led by ACCA’s curatorial team, Max Delany, Annika Kristensen and Miriam Kelly, and developed in collaboration with a curatorial advisory group comprising Dr Marnie Badham, E. Flynn, Eugenia Lim, Dr Grace McQuilten, Dr Timothy Moore, Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, Nur Shkembi, and Jarra Karalinar Steel.


Further information about Who’s Afraid of Public Space?, including projects both at ACCA and offsite, is available at


Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street, Southbank VIC 3006
Melbourne, Australia
Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 10am–5pm, Weekends 11am–5pm Entry free
#accamelbourne #artstartsatacca

ACCA acknowledges the Kulin Nations as sovereign custodians of the land on which we work and welcome visitors, and we extend our respects to ancestors and Elders past and present, and to all First Nations people. 

For further media information:
Katrina Hall
0421153046 |

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