“A Feral Commons”: Rewilding public art in Dubai, Johannesburg, and Kingston

The inaugural cycle of “A Feral Commons” has unveiled the selected artists for this initiative. Curated by Canadian Tairone Bastien, “A Feral Commons” marks the launch of a series of public art promoted by The Global Co-Commission Project by Alserkal Advisory. This debut cycle features three artists - Muhannad Shono, Camille Chedda, and Io Makandal - and spans over three cultural locations: Dubai (UAE), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Kingston (Jamaica).

This initiative, which coincides with the COP28 in Dubai (from the 30th of November to the 12th of December 2023), reimagines the traditional approach to commissioning public art and how it can play a pivotal role in addressing the urgent challenge of climate change. In the context of climate insecurity, it proposes the concept of “rewilding” public art. Each artist will develop a new, site-specific public art installation in response to the central theme of climate change. 


Muhannad Shono in his studio. Credit Bala Ochangco.


The commissions will all be complemented by a programme aimed at engaging local communities in deeper exploration of the theme. Tairone Bastien, curator of “A Feral Commons” adds that “through research, dialogue, and working closely with stake-holders in their respective cultural district, each artist's work seeks to feed back into a feral ecology, bringing awareness to local environmental issues and facilitating greater interspecies respect and collaboration.”


Camille Chedda in Kingston Creative. Credit Dennis Fyffe.


The initiative invites a reconsideration of the conditions under which art is produced, the role of public art in non-Western contexts, and a reshaping of the significance of public art during the climate crisis. Vilma Jurkute, Executive Director of Alserkal Initiatives, notes that this project “reflects cultural districts’ power to act concertedly in times of global crises. Working with artists across three continents, the Global Co-Commission intends to inspire new narratives of possibility, ultimately creating public art that is both responsible and impactful.”


The project prioritises local work, sustainable materials, community support, and includes audits to measure ecological and social impacts. As the initiative evolves, this pilot will become a model and establish the foundation for a more responsible framework for the creation of public art.


Cover image: Io Makandal. Credit: Earl Abrahams.


Anna Savage