Last Drinks belongs to a recent proliferation of urban projection artworks. As an example, the UrbanScreen collective from Bremen, Germany have, since 2005, executed several award-winning, moving image and sound installations in cities around the world. While Last Drinks is not charting new ground from an art historical or technical point of view, it is nevertheless commendable for being well executed and highly attuned to the historical specificity of the site. It is an imaginative way of engaging local residents and visitors in the history of an iconic place.
There can be no doubt that large-scale installations such as this temporarily transform the experience of a public space. The question of how precisely it transforms the public space is rather more complicated to answer. After all, large-scale advertising campaigns also transform the experience of public space. Does Last Drinks create a sense of nostalgia, as the title implies? If it does generate a longing for the ‘good old days,’ what exactly was good about those days? Were the wide class divisions of those days, or the treatment of Aboriginal communities at the time good, for example? Does Last Drinks encourage emotional investment in the site? Perhaps it does, by celebrating Australian icons such as broadcaster Peter Luck in the projections, or by reminding audiences of Sydney’s long history as an international city, and thereby contributing to civic pride. Rigorous frameworks for the evaluation of public art projects remain to be developed and implemented. For now, a great deal of evaluation must rest on available information and careful conjecture.
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