For the 34th Kaldor Public Art Prize, just what does Raza have in store for us?

Asad Raza is not giving much away.

The New York-based artist and producer has been commissioned to create the 34th Kaldor Public Art Project.

Azad Raza in the Clothing Store, where we will create his enigmatic project.Credit:Janie Barrett

Raza's art practice, which frequently responds to specific locations and involves "encounters" for visitors, is as eclectic as it is unconventional.

In 2017, he installed 26 potted trees, each with individual caretakers, inside New York's Whitney Museum of American Art.

That same year he built a full-sized tennis court inside a de-consecrated 16th century church in Milan, encouraging visitors to have a hit.

"I wanted to create the space for an encounter but I figured the encounter should be meditative because it was a church," says Raza. "I thought of the moment you are warming up in tennis as a very meditative moment so I built this tennis court there."

His project for Sydney will take place inside Carriageworks' Clothing Store, a striking, concrete floored post-industrial space in Redfern with two central rows of pillars.

So what is he planning?

The work, which opens on May 3, will be called Absorption, and involve a collaboration between Raza, a group of biologists and environmental scientists from Sydney University and local artists.

Then there are the mysteriously described "cultivators" who will work daily within the 800-square-metre space.

"What is interesting to me is that fact that they are hard to describe," says Raza. "They are not going to play a role that is simply pragmatic or simply didactic like a guide or an invigilator.

"They will be here all the time and you will meet them when you come.

"The project comes down to this triangle between the scientists, the other artists and this group of cultivators. Together we will create a living process or metabolism in this place for a few weeks in May.

"There will be an organic element to the piece. I don't want to get too much into describing it before you can see it."

For John Kaldor, 2019 is a big moment, marking 50 years since he first delighted and confused Sydneysiders by commissioning the artist Christo to "wrap" a 2.4-kilometre section of the coast at Little Bay.

"From the first conversation [with Raza], I thought here is an artist who is different, who is representing what is a new way of looking at art, at engaging people," he says.

"I think there are paradigm changes going on in the art world today and I think what Asad will do touches on those changes, which we want to share with the Australian art world and the Australian public."

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