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CY O'Connor by Tony Jones.

so that artists and developers might think more about what they are doing when they install something new. While Perth has a lot of mediocre public art, the city can also learn from its mistakes.

This happened recently when the City of Perth installed Danish artist Jeppe Hein's interactive Water Labyrinth in Forrest Place. The water sculpture to my mind is a much better fit in that location than James Angus's 2011 sculpture Grow Your Own, the so-called "Green Cactus" that sits beside it.

The angles of Hein's grid of water reflect those of the architecture around it and the work is set into the paving of the city itself. Angus' work, however, looks like it was superimposed in the space after being printed out from a computer model.

It is all too easy to blame artists for bad public art but it is also the fault of the unimaginative developers and government committees who employ them. Geoffrey Drake-Brockman's Totem, nicknamed the Perth Pineapple, outside the Perth Arena, is the result of architects working closely with an artist.

Drake-Brockman was involved in the design phase of the Arena early, so that he was able to design a robot tower complete with moving panels and lasers that looks like it belongs there.

Sometimes artists can be appointed at the last minute and still make the best of their situation. Brad Ladyman and Miik Green were commissioned to make a sculpture for the foyer of the new Brookfield Plaza, and made it from scratch in three months. They had to fight the board of BHP Billiton to get it the way they wanted it, staying true to their idea even as the company struggled to understand what they were doing. "You have to stay true to your idea, but the more difficult part is to work out where to draw the line and what to compromise on," Ladyman says.

If Perth is going to become a more international city, it needs to have a critical conversation about what is good and bad in its environment, what works and what doesn't. Public art can turn an average-looking city into an attractive one. It is also something that we all have to look at and live with. So it is important that artists, developers and the government get it right, and commission only the best works possible, to turn this city into something better.

  • · * *Darren Jorgensen *is an art critic with _The West Australian _and an associate professor in the faculty of architecture, landscape and visual arts at the University of WA

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