Is it any wonder? On commissioning an ‘uncommissioned’ atmosphere: a reply to Hillary and Sumartojo

Hansen, Susan ORCID logoORCID: (2017) Is it any wonder? On commissioning an ‘uncommissioned’ atmosphere: a reply to Hillary and Sumartojo. Public Art Dialogue, 7 (2) . pp. 242-256. ISSN 2150-2552 [Article] (doi:10.1080/21502552.2017.1343614)

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This article is a reply to Fiona Hillary and Shanti Sumartojo’s “Empty-Nursery Blue: On Atmosphere, Meaning and Methodology in Melbourne Street Art”, published in Public Art Dialogue in October 2014.1 Hillary and Sumartojo present a welcome addition to the literature on street art and graffiti in their sustained analytic focus on a particular work of street art and its place-based reception. However, their analysis of Adrian Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue is compromised by their largely unacknowledged investment and involvement as commissioners and curators of the work. Further, Hillary and Sumartojo’s adoption of the concept of affective atmosphere and a positive sense of enchantment operates to discount viewers’ contradictory social-emotional responses to the work. While the authors’ attempt to incorporate authoethnographic methods appears promising, in practice this bears little in common with the critically reflexive practice of autoethnography, and is rather used as a circular rhetorical device to demonstrate the presence of the very notion of enchantment so central to the authors’ interpretation of Empty Nursery Blue. The liminal status of Empty Nursery Blue as apparently uncommissioned street art and as commissioned public art presents an unacknowledged tension at the core of this partial interpretation that may yet be ultimately productive of the very notion of wonder and enchantment. A critical expansion of the notion of enchantment to encompass a variety of affective responses and forms of material and ethical engagement is suggested.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology > Forensic Psychology Research Group
Item ID: 22178
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Public Art Dialogue on 03/07/2017, available online:
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Depositing User: Susan Hansen
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2017 15:57
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 20:47

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