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A public art project by Gretta Louw

Societies are created in public spaces; so what can we learn from looking closely at them? Public space and the interactions we have in it is one of the key factors determining our perception of the cities and societies in which we live. But what other possibilities exist for radically reimagining these spaces? In downtown Munich and on Instagram (@TheCommonsMUC), a poetic and provocative campaign encourages us to reflect on the nature of the public sphere.

»Consider this a love letter to public green space« suggests one of the posters from Gretta Louws public art project The Commons. Green spaces, public squares, parks and walkways create an organic network through the city. They form a topography of social and political participation and the backdrop for public interaction. For better or worse, outdoor advertising also comprises an influential infrastructure in public space. Not only along streets and squares but also in the digital realm, billboards, posters, pop-up windows, and screens function to disseminate advertising and marketing campaigns to (usually unwitting and unwilling) passersby and users. Mobile devices advance the intertwining of analogue and digital spaces, such that we increasingly exist simultaneously in the inextricable intersection of both. As part of broader discourses around digitalisation and the attention economy, or social cohesion and exchange beyond filter bubbles, The Commons questions the commercial use of shared, public space. Do the public spaces we inhabit reflect our priorities, realities, and values -- and how could public space be transformed for social good?

Social interaction during the last months has been shifted dramatically toward the virtual. Meanwhile, however, whether in regard to the heightened awareness of the unequal distribution of public parks and recreational areas, the new patterns of movement and social interaction made necessary by social distancing, or the urgency of the movement of worldwide protest against racism, it's clear that we are gaining new perspectives on the role that public space plays in society.

The Commons facilitates a reconsideration of our aspirations for public space through an 'anti-advertising' campaign across twelve traditional outdoor advertising spots and a program of digital ads on Instagram.

Gretta Louw was born in South Africa, grew up in Australia, and currently lives between Munich and Perth. The focus of her multi-disciplinary practice is the analysis of technological, social, and psychological processes and their inherent performativity and poetics. The Commons is part of an annual series of curated ephemeral public art projects funded by the Cultural Department of the City of Munich. In 2020 the curatorial focus of the program is the current dimensions, the open questions, and future visions for the public sphere. What does 'the public' mean in 2020? What's the current status, how is it changing, and what possible futures could it embody? The Commons is one of four selected projects, in which Munich-based artists formulate their responses to these questions.

Opening: 17 July Instagram Live @TheCommonsMUC from 7 pm CET.

Image: Mockup The Commons, © Gretta Louw /Atac Design, 2020


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