Symbols of power in diverse areas of public life surround us, from insignificant street signs and little-known corners to grand monuments and great buildings. Concrete expressions of abstract conceptions—churches (religion), seats of government (Parliament), railway stations (transport policy), shopping malls (commerce), and newsvendors (mass media), for instance—are regularly translated from these solidities into ideas, for the most part unthinkingly. Images of the control and ownership of public space in everyday matters have great significance in the conduct of human affairs—social, political, and cultural—and they dominate our generally accepted beliefs in the order of things. As we move through and around our work and leisure places, memorials, and construction sites, we rarely pause to contemplate the symbolic meanings of these spaces. Instead, we take the fact of their actual forms for granted, allowing for a glossing over of their symbolism. This is the force of the ‘social imaginary’ (see Taylor 2004), a phenomenon that will be explored in this issue as part of an ongoing examination of the relation between the arts and the state (see Kapferer 2008).