Photo: Amanda Winkles

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is a free public performance project of the Texas Biennial.

The project was launched March 10-12, 2013 in Austin, Texas and online at From 6pm - midnight over three days during SXSW—a time when Austin is focused on interactive media, film and music—the event staged an optimistic place for public conversation about art and art criticism, and affirmed that Austin is home to a vibrant visual arts community that sees itself as connected in many ways with those creative industries and modes, as well as with a larger contemporary art world.

The performance venue was an empty street-level commercial space at 823 Congress Avenue, located in the heart of downtown Austin. Local participants including artists, critics, art historians, curators, arts administrators, educators, museum patrons, collectors and gallerists read selections from the texts they find most pertinent to their understanding of contemporary art. Readings and video of readings by remote participants were streamed live from A continuous Twitter feed provided context and commentary.

The project is titled after the short story by Ernest Hemingway published in 1933. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is a provocative, complex narrative about the desire and need for public spaces for conversation, set initially in a café, very late at night. The story provided the inspiration for the name that Dave Hickey gave to the art gallery he and then wife Mary Jane Taylor co-founded in 1967, in Austin. While short-lived, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, the gallery, was influential in bringing attention to contemporary art being made in Texas. Hickey later became an art critic known for his commitment to talking about beauty, and his withering denunciations of certain aspects of the artworld.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is an ongoing project, envisioned always to have both a physical and virtual component, but to exist occasionally.

Support for the launch of A Clean, Well-Lighted Place was provided by Big Medium; PIPE Projects; T. Stacy & Associates; CapRidge Partners, LLC; Tenant Solutions; Webcore Technologies; and Titan Datacom. Web streaming support by Fine Blend Media.

Thanks to Tito's Handmade Vodka.