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Changing attitude to street art
Changing attitude to street art

Contrary to its name, the world is anything but bleak or bland for British art collective Greyworld.

Artist Andrew Shoben, the creative director of Greyworld, has been in Perth to install Signs, an interactive electronic artwork in Brookfield Place for the Perth International Arts Festival.

Shoben said he had noticed a changing attitude to public art in Perth since he was last here for the 2011 Festival. Greyworld has created works in 20 countries and is renowned for encouraging people to "play" in their city.

Signs is 6m tall and features five moving arms which can point anywhere, even to other planets in the solar system, depending on public requests on a keypad.

It also could point to war zones, sporting events, moving aircraft, environmental changes and even "a girl with a broken heart walking down the street", Shoben said.

"We think of it as a modern day oracle because it will point to absolutely anything. You are not entirely sure what you are going to learn or see but hopefully that mixes together so you get a feeling that it is fun to be alive."

Shoben founded Greyworld 20 years ago with the focus of allowing creative expression in areas of a city where there usually is none.

"It would be a tragedy if people walked past something sprouting out of the ground that we have made and nobody was curious to know what it was," he said.

The trick with making public artworks was to precariously balance their novelty and interactivity with the surrounding environment, he said. People should not be forced into experiencing them.

Good recent examples in Perth were Jeppe Hein's Water Labyrinth in Forrest Place, Geoffrey Drake-Brockman's Totem outside Perth Arena and Luke Jerram's Play Me I'm Yours free street pianos.

"Public art seems to be in people minds more than ever before," Shoben said. "I look around Perth and I see a lot of the generic kinds of public art that you get in any town. It will be the figurative fellow holding the briefcase or the mob of kangaroos. Like all towns, there is an opportunity to do something more interesting in these spaces."

The Festival's major temporary public artwork, Jim Campbell's Scattered Light in Kings Park, has been suffering a surfeit of love since it was turned on last Thursday.

Some people had accidently broken about 10 light globes while trying to walk through the suspended forest of 1600 globes on Fraser Avenue, a Festival spokeswoman said. They had been replaced.

Festival organisers were considering do-not-enter signs, she said.