Monday, 22 September 2008

Other people's thoughts

Some nice quotes I found on Public Art South West's fabulous website:

Art isn't necessary anymore as a field, a profession; art is no longer a noun, it [has] become a verb. Art is nothing but a general attitude of thickening the plot.

Vito Acconci

Art is language and public art is public speech.

Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

Public art is... 'a form of street life, a means to articulate the implicit values of a city when its users occupy the place of determining what the city is'.

Malcolm Miles

Monday, 8 September 2008

Michel de Certeau

I’ve been re-reading a couple of chapters (Walking in the City, and Spatial Stories) from Michel de Certeau’s collection of essays, The Practice of Everyday Life. It makes my head hurt, and I’m not sure I understand a lot of it, but there’s some really interesting stuff there about our relationship to cities and to stories.

He talks about the power and importance of stories and legends in creating place:

“It is through the opportunity they offer to store up rich silences and wordless stories, or rather through their capacity to create cellars and garrets everywhere, that local legends (legenda: what is to be read, but also what can be read) permit exits, ways of going out and coming back in, and thus habitable spaces.”

He talks of stories and legends as haunting places, and argues that “Haunted places are the only ones people can live in”.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Playing in Urban Places

I am speaking at a conference in Leeds on 3rd October. My paper is called Narrating the City. It asks whether there is a role and a space for literature and creative writing to inform and explore our relationship to urban space. The paper connects the concept of narrative to that of navigation. It considers who authors a city, compares the role of the resident/visitor/walker in a city to that of the reader, and looks in very practical terms at how such ideas can be applied through participatory literature work.

Currently it looks like this:

... but I'm getting there! Will be posting my ideas as they develop.

Information about the seminar below:

a seminar:
Playing in Urban Places.
3 October
9am – 5pm
Followed by an evening reception.

This seminar seeks to investigate the creative ways that a city is uncovered and discovered, while generating a platform for discussion and debate around the experience of interacting with location. Using the work of Alex Hartley as a contextual springboard the day will become a stimulating event to explore creative and innovative engagement with the urban.

This is a seminar for artists, architects, curators, educators, students, and those working in related fields of geography, urban planning, literacy, and so forth.

The day will showcase an international selection of researchers and artists through paper presentations, interactive installation, sound, video and performances, on the following themes:

o Innovative engagements between art and architecture

o Navigating places, paths and barriers

o Subversive and transgressive acts to take back the city

Our panel of speakers include:
Chair: Professor Guy Julier - Architecture, Landscape & Design, Leeds Metropolitan University

Keynote Speaker:

Playing with the Potential of Public Spaces

Dr Quentin Stevens – Senior Lecturer Urban Design, The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL


Sarah Butler - UrbanWords
Dr John Crossley
Leeds University
Matt Delbridge
University of London
Marianna & Daniel O’Reilly
Laura Robinson & Dr Liz Stirling –
Leeds Metropolitan University
Victoria Stanton
Varsity of Maneuvers - Birgit Binder & Jorda Planellas
John Wild

To book please call the box office on 0113 812 5998, all forms of payment accepted, or call in person to the Gallery & Theatre Office between 9am and 5pm, Monday-Friday.

£75/£45 concessions [lunch and evening reception included]

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


I've been thinking about the difference between poets and prose writers working in a 'public' way. A public artist I spoke to a year or so ago said he always works with poets because it's easier. They write in such a condensed way you can fit it onto a physical sculpture much more easily. Fair enough, maybe, if we're talking about physical public art. I could make endless arguments about why prose writers can work as effectively, but as a prose writer myself, I feel slightly on the back foot and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's just that, because it's such a condensed and transportable form, poetry has been the more used literary form in this area of work.

I have just started a lovely project on the Greenwich Peninsula with the fantastic poet, Aoife Mannix. We're blogging about the process and sharing our writing as we go along (visit the blog here if you want to have a look). Again, I feel a bit of a pang that I'm not a poet. I want to be able to write something people can take in in one gulp (though I appreciate it will take them longer than that to digest it). I guess I need to accept the difference between the forms, and find ways to tell and present stories in a way that makes sense to me and how I work.

I'm working with the artist Neville Gabie at the moment on a project in Bristol called BS1. We've appointed the novelist Donna Daley-Clarke to respond to the building of a new shopping centre in central Bristol. I was really keen to appoint a prose writer to explore exactly this issue - how can prose writers work in this field? I'll be thinking more about that as the BS1 project draws to an end later this autumn.