Public Art lives a mortal life. Whether it is a mural on the side of the building, a sculpture on a street corner, or a drawing made in the sand, the existance that this public art claims is only temporary. Thus, the need for documentation is essential for it’s memory to live on, and in many cases transfers into becoming the commodified shell of the art itself.
As the concentration is generally on the creation of the temporary work, many pieces are not documented and archived either by intention or oversight on the part of the artist. Another aspect is how the documentation of work taken by others can sometimes overtake the work that was created, shift its intention and take on a life of its own. When memories of art placed on a certain street only live on for those who passed by and were touched/inspired by the work, this can be both effective and can be seen as limiting and unfortunate. Art that exists in the public sphere has often served to shape the way we remember that certain place and time. Such influential pieces can be immortalized through documentation. In this article, we will discuss the ways documentation can turn into an art form itself, artists whose ephemeral work relies on documentation, and certain attempts of archiving the vast and constantly evolving world of public art. In doing so, we hope to influence you to consider on a deeper level, the effects of documentation both as a viewer of public art, and as a creator of public art.