Organising an artistic event in the public space

José Rubio & Gentiane Guillot
Number of pages
Document producer
  • Circus & street arts


Throughout the years, the street arts have constructed much and have done so with force. If there is not any pediment to materialize the place held by these artistic forms, like those decorating our houses of performance and exhibitions (theatres, operas, concert halls, museums, galleries...), it is because the setting, even the setting of the stage itself, is everywhere in the urban territory where an opportunity has presented itself for the coming together of a work and its audience. We remember, we marvel, we recount years after the image of a show, which lives on in memory and re-emerges, traversing the space of our cities.

The urban fabric must allow for the expression of these artistic proposals by encouraging their reception in public space. This space is not meant to be transformed into a catalogue of private elements of all kinds, utilitarian, commercial, sonorous, functional and, in the end, sterilising. The city must host what can become a festival of the senses, of emotion, of the mind, and of community. It therefore must seek out these collective projects instead of giving open rage to an excess of individual interests. The ephemeral transformation of non-developed locations into performance sites is only possible by preserving the mobility and reversibility of perennial installations that can, at times, be too invasive.

Of course, presenting these artistic forms in the public space does not allow one to surpass the discriminative nature of perspectives on an artistic work. It does, however, constitute a frequently successful attempt to modify the social structure of the audience. Street theatre is not only popular because of the diversity of the audience that it is able to captivate and call out to, but also because of the means by which it is implemented. It is the act of including the contributions of all actors within the public space that reinforces its popularity and allows it to speak to everyone. This group effort accumulates the strengths of everyone involved: the artists, municipal services, technicians and all public services working to help make these artistic proposals a reality. Mediation with the territory involves this very pragmatic participation from numerous actors.

Filling the public space with an artistic act is often experienced as the exercising of an inalienable right. However, our society has developed the need to feel safe in any circumstance. Cultural events that take place in the urban territory are, like any other activity, subject to certain rules. Taking into account all safety parameters at the heart of creations instead of making it a separate, extra objective or constraint allows one to take more liberties.

When the occupation of public space has taken place along with a performance, the next day the street seems like a shore whose waves have pulled away. From this somewhat oppressive void there emerges the expectation that the festivities will start up again, that the gathering will be renewed in other streets, other squares, with other crowds. 

José Rubio - Production and technical manager for shows at Le Parc et la Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris (France)