John Dummett

Critical Writing in Art & Design

Action of Words

Digital print, tracing paper and blackboard

200 x 125 cm

Major Project: dummyPublic

'The public' is an inscrutable and illegible volume which yields no easy or immediate comprehension. Its inner workings are only ever partially revealed in the dissections performed by theory and sociological facts. 'dummyPublic' inhabits this speculative anatomy and navigates its visceral disorder to draw together ideas, events and places that reveal characteristics of how 'the public' is staged, possessed and re-enacted in contemporary culture.

An encounter with any object of study leaves many traces and the practice of writing in a notebook is one of them. But this mode of writing does not necessarily lend itself to the development of conclusions or reasoned argument. It is instead a discursive approach that runs to and fro as it follows the passage of thought and observation. Over sixteen months, punctuated by question marks, circles and underlines, this discursive encounter with 'the public' generated a speculative text, bracketed by three meanings of the word dummy: Pacifier, a babys plastic dummy, an object that aids silence and quietness; Decoy, the doppelganger or silent double of an animal used as a lure in hunting; and Rehearsal, the practice of a theatrical trial run, a precautionary test that presents a provisional version of something that may come.

Inhabiting this suggestive terminology and responding to the practices of urban regeneration and the Big Society, 'dummyPublic' reveals aspects of the political, economic and theoretical staging of 'the public' and offers a critique of its ongoing institutional re-enactment.





BA (Hons), Visual Performance, Dartington College of Arts, 1996


Associative lecturer, Camberwell College of Arts, 2011; Visiting lecturer, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee, 2011; Researcher, Black Country Creative Advantage, West Bromwich, 2010


Scribble Space, Architecture Centre, Bristol, 2009; Full Bloom, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2008; Remember We Are All Here, Eastern Edge Gallery, St Johns, Canada, 2008; Commemorative Portrait for All, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh, 2007


Between the Plan and the Real, John Dummett, Confort Zone, Onomatopee, 2012