Pig: An Experiment in Collective Decision-making

Image for PIG publication. Shows the pig itself - a giant, transparent, perpex piggy bank - installed on a public street.

This report was commissioned by IN SITU, coordinated by On the Move and researched by UCLG Committee on Culture.

Pig is an art installation in the form of a giant transparent piggy bank. It appears without warning in public space accompanied by a short message: members of the public can put money into Pig’s ‘community fund’ if they want to, and spend it when they’ve agreed how to spend it.

Developed by the company Kaleider and supported by IN SITU, the European platform for art in public space, Pig travelled to six locations in Europe within the IN SITU network during 2018-19, and was met with a fascinating range of responses. In Marseille, discussions on how to spend the money flowed into debates on homelessness, migration and the status of refugees. In the Spanish town of Tàrrega, children made regular withdrawals, while in Moss, a small town on Norway’s southern coast, fiscal restraint seemed to win out – at least on the surface. In Hull, Pig had to be moved for safety reasons, while on the Dutch island of Terschelling it was moved every night as a festival game. Everywhere it went, Pig was the catalyst for new meetings, discussions and heated debates, touching – directly or indirectly – on issues of democracy, devolution and the common good.

Simple concepts can get at big ideas. The purpose of this evaluation is to look back on Pig through the lens of public policy, in the belief that cities and governments might have something to learn from art in public space. Work on it began in 2018, but it is being finalised in April 2020, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is both confirming the power of communities and placing greater scrutiny on how they are formed, who they include, and how they relate to larger structures of governance. Access to public space has been curtailed for some, but the question of how we come together, how we make decisions, and how we build trust among one another, has never been more pressing.