Neurodiversity promotion on Exhibition Road

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 22, 2022

Came across this inspiring installation on Exhibition Road in Central London. It highlights neurodiverse researchers in the leading institutions (Imperial College, Science Museum, V&A, Royal College of Art) along this key street. The graphics are engaging and the individual examples highlight the importance of neurodiversity in research.

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What art have I seen? Köln Skulpturen Park

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 1, 2022

Köln Skulpturen Park makes evident several key moves used by sculptors creating outdoor works

  • Fairy tales – two of the pieces added to the collection recently (video here) evoke traditions and archetypes Mary Bauermeister’s arrangement of tree stump seats into a space for a different way of spending time in nature and Guan Xaio’s Old Eggs and the Catcher which seems to allude to folk stories
  • Repurposing – Dane Mitchell’s Post Hoc, two fir tree mobile phone masts, take a piece of infrastructure and repurpose it to tell a different story, in this case of loss.
  • Buildings – the focal point of the park is Suo Fujimoto‘s white concrete structure. The ‘building’ surrounds a tree. The act of looking in and looking out both create frames with which to appreciate the leafy environment. Of course, much like the Farnsworth House, you need a certain level of privilege to appreciate the views without being concerned about the functionality of the building.

Mies van der Röhe said

When one looks at Nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it takes on a deeper significance than when one stands outside. More of Nature is thus expressed – it becomes part of a greater whole.

Fujimoto’s piece is the sculptural version, framing and organising nature. It even has works installed in and on it.

Lois Weinberger‘s intervention made a few years ago is one of the more radical ‘pieces’. Very much in contrast with the formality of much of the work (di Suvero, even Fischli and Weiss), his trench, in reality a bulldozer driven in a straight line for 100m cutting through paths and leaving spoil heap at the end of the line, offers a different aesthetic. Related to Robert Smithson’s various experiments with entropic processes, and with Gordon Matta-Clark’s cuts, but this is negentropic – it is focused by emergence, its aesthetic is what happens when we stop controlling nature. Its counterpoint is Karin Sander‘s piece of plastic grass inserted into the equally managed grass.

The curatorial approach is in some respects more radical than some of the artists’ works. As I understand it each new exhibition, comprising some temporary works and some new permanent installations, is focused by a previous work. This year’s exhibition refers back to the Weinberger’s piece. This iterative accumulative approach forms a nice counterpoint to novelty as a curatorial approach.

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What art have I seen? Kielder Art and Architecture

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 28, 2022
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NSAIS Commission Courtyards (Gabbro)

Posted in Arts & Health, News, Producing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on December 8, 2021

Extended Deadline 17 January 2022

£50,000 excluding VAT

This commission addresses a key challenge at the heart of the ethos of Foxgrove (NSAIS): creating an empathetically designed environment that balances safety and therapy. We are looking for a designer/maker individual or team to design, fabricate, test and deliver modular units comprising planters, seating (and tables) for the Horticultural Courtyard and the Therapy Courtyard. The designer/maker will work closely with One Environments, Project Landscape Architect, to input into the overall layout, as well as surfaces, planting, lighting, and graphics/signage. The commission will need to contribute to the ethos and language of biophilic and therapeutic design throughout Foxgrove (NSAIS). Careful consideration will need to be taken with the choice of material and the design in order to meet the highest standards of safety and robustness.

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NSAIS Commission Dividing Wall (Delta)

Posted in Arts & Health, Producing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on November 23, 2021

First Commission for NHS Ayrshire & Arran‘s new Foxgrove National Secure Adolescent Inpatient Service.
How do you use a wall to provide security but also contribute to a therapeutic environment? 
We are looking for a designer/maker individual or team to develop and deliver a solution for a dividing wall required for safety separating the main dining space from the main living space. The wall should enhance safety and security within the facility but also enhance the therapeutic milieu of the facility, providing a feature which inspires confidence in the young people and pride in the staff group.
You will have:
• experience of collaborating with Project Architects
• track record of work for justice, education, or health/wellbeing
• engagement-focused practice
• delivered high quality integrated elements on time and to budget
Foxgrove, the National Secure Inpatient Adolescent Service (NSAIS) will provide support, education and rehabilitation for young people with mental health disorders where the risk of harm to others or themselves is beyond what can be provided by other mental health services.
Total budget £40,000 exc VAT

Deadline 13 December 2021

Full brief here

Abstract: The Hope of Something Different

Posted in CF Writing, News, PhD, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 12, 2020

Educational theorist Gert Biesta proposes that we need to be ‘in the world, without occupying the centre of the world’ (2017 3). This injunction provides a frame with which to interrogate the hybrid practice of ecoart. This practice can be characterised by a concern for the relations of living things to each other, and to their environments. Learning in order to be able to act is critical. One aspect is collaboration with experts (whether those are scientists and environmental managers or inhabitants, including more-than-human). Another is building ‘commons’ and shared understanding being more important than novelty. Grant Kester has argued that there is an underlying paradigm shift in ‘aesthetic autonomy’, underpinned by a ‘trans-disciplinary interest in collective knowledge production’. (2013 np). This goes beyond questions of interdisciplinarity and its variations to raise more fundamental questions of agency. Drawing on the work of key practitioner/researchers (eg Jackie Brookner (1945-2015); Collins and Goto Studio, Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b 1932)) and theorists (Kester, Kagan) the meaning and implications of not ‘occupying the centre of the world’ will be explored as a motif for an art which can act in public space.

Biesta, G. 2017. Letting Art Teach: Art education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys. Arnhem: ArtEZ Press.

Fremantle, C., 2015. ‘The hope of something different’. In A restless art: thinking about community and participatory art [online]

Fremantle, C. 2015. ‘Art and Ecology’ in Interesting Times: Environmental Art Festival Scotland. Dumfries: EAFS.

Kagan, S., 2013. Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity. 2nd Edition. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Kagan, S., 2014. “The Practice of Ecological Art”, Plastik: Art & Science,

Kester, G., 2013. “On Collaborative Art Practices”, Praktyka Teoretyczna, accessed 7.12. 2015

Published: ‘What if?’ Introduction for North Light Arts 10 Year exhibition

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 9, 2020

North Light Arts kindly asked me to write a short piece by way of an introduction to their 10 year exhibition.

Gert Biesta proposes that we need to be,

…in the world, without occupying the centre of the world.

Whilst Biesta credits this idea to a French Educational Philosopher, Philippe Meirieu, Meirieu’s comments seem to be in the context of the classroom, and Biesta certainly uses the phrase in a larger sense, as part of what it means to be educated (see in particular Letting Art Teach: Art education ‘after’ Joseph Beuys, ArtEZ Press, 2017).

But for me this phrase speaks to an ecological understanding, or even ‘becoming earthly’ (in Latour’s sense). Ecological approaches to art are distinctive – they ask us to re-imagine our relationship with the world, as part of it, with art being not simply a human commodity or communication. Rather art is potentially a way to experience and understand the livingness and agency of the world, to share experiences with the more-than-human.

North Light Arts, under Susie Goodwin’s leadership, have put myriad aspects of the environment of the East Coast town of Dunbar as the focus of artists’ residencies.

John Muir, mostly known for his key role in the creation of the National Parks in the USA (remember the 1903 picture of him with Theodore Roosevelt on the top of the world?), was born in Dunbar. He provides North Light Arts and Susie in particular with inspiration. Muir is remembered for saying,

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

The power of imagination makes us infinite.

What art have I seen? Nick Cave’s ‘Until’ and Red Note improvising

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Sound by chrisfremantle on October 14, 2019

We were at the evening organised by ArtLink Edinburgh where, as part of their Altered States programme in association with Nick Cave’s ‘Until’ installation in Tramway, Red Note Ensemble improvised for a mixed ability audience.

ArtLink is an ‘arts and disability’ organisation, and this immersive experience was amazing, taking an already stunning installation and creating a moment where an audience spent time together just being … in our bodies, in the environment, in the light and glitter, in the sounds…

What art have I seen? Fife Arms

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on September 30, 2019

What art have I seen? Love at first sight

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 9, 2019

Morag Myerscough’s installation in collaboration with poet Jo Gilbert encompasses the Mercat Cross. Commissioned by Aberdeen’s LookAgain Festival (based in Gray’s)Lovely story connecting Myerscough to Aberdeen, and Gilbert is a powerful voice for Doric poetry.

What art have I seen? The World Turned Up-Side Down

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on April 8, 2019

Mark Wallinger’s controversial piece commissioned by LSE puts UK University business models into sharp relief – are People’s Republic of China or Republic of China (Taiwanese) students more valuable? Change the colour of Taiwan so it is part of PRC or keep it a different colour? £19,920 per undergraduate and up to £35,568 for an MSc in Finance and Private Equity.

What art have I seen? Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 2, 2018

What art have I seen? Chinati Foundation

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 19, 2018

What should a museum be when made by an artist?

The artist decides where and how the work is installed (in agreement with the artist who set up the museum).

Works do not compete with each other.

Work is (almost exclusively) permanently installed.

The work is well documented but there are no signs and labels (except where they are part of the work).

What art have I seen? The Block

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 18, 2018

Studios and Libraries in The Block, Judd Foundation.

20th Century Books organised by date of publication (or author birth maybe).

Books before 20th Century organised by geography.

Studio contains work for thinking.

What art have I seen? Mastaba by Christo & Jeanne-Claude

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 4, 2018

The Mastaba on the Serpentine, works related to barrels in the Gallery, other works at Stern Pissarro.

Curiously the Mastaba floating on the lake is more like the 2D works in the Gallery than you expect – it has an unreal quality, perhaps because of the formal geometry and the colour too. All the earlier proposals going back to the late 60s are yellow, red and orange, but this is maroon and purple. Maybe more complementary to the greenness of Hyde Park?

There is definitely a Dada streak in this, the absurdity of this large form, just as there is a Dadaism in wrapping things.

Mies van der Rohe said art addresses the conditions of the time – his were industrialisation and mass production. Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work has a curious relation both to industrial and post-industrialisation, but the temporariness – here now, gone in September – reveals more. Temporary abnormality sensitises us to the normal.

Christo clearly denies any political intent but this monumental structure composed of oil barrels is a reminder of our, as Brett Bloom calls it, petro-subjectivity.

What art have I seen? Life of John the Baptist

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 31, 2017


Andrea del Sarto’s Life of John the Baptist at the Chiostro dello Scalzo. Last here 18 years ago. Just as good.

Salome’s Dance

What art have I seen? Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 26, 2017

Detail from The Emperor

I have a particular love of artists’ personal projects (Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta, Charles Jencks’ Garden outside Dumfries) and Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden is no exception. Quirky and deeply personal under a veneer of playground fun.

The Devil

Fascinated to read that Tinguely did a lot of the welding for the armatures and that the ceramics were largely made, fired and glazed on-site.

The Moon

What art have I seen? Collection Gori

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 18, 2017

What art have I seen? Out There: Our Post-War Public Art

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 14, 2016

Walked past this yesterday and today went to see the Historic England exhibition on post-war public art. Highlights how the Festival of Britain in 1951 acted as a platform for new work perhaps in a similar way to how the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and 2014 Commonwealth Games have provided a platform for a new cross artform sited work.

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What art have I seen? Crawick Multiverse

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 13, 2015


This was an opencast coal pit up until a couple of years ago. I do wonder what members of the Society for Ecological Restoration meeting in Manchester next week would make of it?

What art have I seen? Spiral Jetty

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 28, 2015

Spiral Jetty - photo Jake Fremantle

Spiral Jetty – photo Jake Fremantle

To visit Spiral Jetty you have to pass through the Golden Spike National Historic Site, created in 1957 to mark the point where the east coast and west coast railways met in 1869.  It now comprises 2,700 acres of scrubland, but not Spiral Jetty – you clearly pass through ranches to get to the Jetty – the signs saying anyone leaving the road is trespassing are pretty clear.

Imagining Spiral Jetty, February 2008

November, 2009. Smithson, Aldiss and Earthworks

What art have I seen? Roden Crater

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 25, 2015
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Whose space is it anyway?

Posted in Arts & Health, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 1, 2014

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013.  Photo Alan McAteer (with permission)

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013. Photo Alan McAteer (with permission)

You can’t easily go and see the work that Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge did for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) unit in the Gorbals. It’s not that we might not particularly want to visit a CAMHS unit. It’s not that it isn’t public space (of course it’s not a gallery, not that sort of public space). It’s real public space, public service space (NHS space) where people sit and wait whilst their children and young people attend sessions with clinical psychologists and therapists. You really can’t just wander in and have a look at the art.

This is a problem for arts and health projects. The public places in which they are often to be found aren’t public in the same way as a park or a street or even the atrium of a big hospital.

But these spaces matter. And it’s all the more important that as a professional community we are able to see what colleagues and peers are doing, hear how it works and learn from these projects.

Maria McCavana, artist, and Dr Lindsey MacLeod, Clinical Psychologist specialising in child and adolescent mental health, shared the process and results of the work in the CAMHS unit in the Gorbals and also previously at the Knightswood Centre (now demolished and therefore even less accessible). They talked about their interests and motivations as well as the lessons learnt.

This event was part of UZ Arts’ programme for the Fringe (for background on UZ see the end of the piece).  Maria participated in UZ Arts’ residency programme in Sri Lanka this year, and UZ are interested in how the lessons can be transferred to artists in Sri Lanka for the benefit of the patients, families and carers. Creative Therapies, the Glasgow based art (in the broad sense) therapies organisation, provided organisational support and structure and the project was funded by the Yorkhill Children’s Foundation.

The brief for the project was focused on the users of the space, the clients, having an influence on the design of the space, actually to give them a sense of ownership. Lindsey said, “We asked young people to make their mark on the building.” The brief also asked that, “the space should be interesting, but not too interesting (ie not overwhelm the kids on the spectrum or over stimulate the children with ADHD).”

It was refreshing to hear the concerns from the perspective of the clinician:

That colleagues and teams are busy (and a project such as improving a waiting area is on top of an already full workload). Service delivery on a day to day basis is the priority.

That as a clinician, maybe more so in mental health services, you need to be very confident to entrust your patients/clients into the hands of someone outside the NHS.

That if it wasn’t some of the clinicians’ “cup of tea,” did that really matter? This led onto a really interesting discussion around evaluation.

Of course we assume that evaluation is important. But what exactly are we evaluating?

Is the space improved? Yes the space is improved, but it would have been improved with fresh paint, new carpets and new furniture. What did the ‘art’ do? Actually the art made it more specific, more interesting. The waiting room is now a nicer, more comfortable waiting room, but its also now an interesting waiting room rather than a generic one. It’s got funny bookshelves where each book fits into its own slot.

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013.  Photo Bill Breckenridge (with permission)

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013. Photo Bill Breckenridge (with permission)

It’s got an amazing sculptural bush of individual letters sticking out in all directions (top image). The signage has been sorted out to reduce visual clutter.

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013.  Photo Bill Breckenridge (with permission)

Maria McCavana and Bill Breckenridge, Waiting Room, CAMHS Gorbals, 2013. Photo Bill Breckenridge (with permission)

But let’s be clear, you wouldn’t reproduce exactly this scheme in all the CAMHS waiting rooms across Glasgow. It’s not designed to be literally reproducible. It’s designed to be distinctive. The approach used is definitely reproducible.

Who benefits and how? The brief was drawn up through consultation with staff and users. McCavana and Breckenridge proposed a residency-based approach working with nominated patients/clients of this CAMHS unit. They did a series of workshops over an extended period. McCavana and Breckenridge designed the workshop process and all the activities, and there is a clear development from the workshops to the installed project. If I’d been involved in the workshops, I’d recognise my contribution in the space.

Like many artists interested in participatory and co-creative work, McCavana is articulate about the need to change power relations, to give voice to those who don’t normally have a voice. We’re not talking about art therapy – that’s something different. Grant Kester, one of the key writers on participation and collaboration says,

“In the most successful collaborative projects we encounter instead a pragmatic openness to site and situation, a willingness to engage with specific cultures and communities in a creative and improvisational manner … , a concern with non-hierarchical and participatory processes, and a critical and self-reflexive relationship to practice itself. Another important component is the desire to cultivate and enhance forms of solidarity… .” (The One and The Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, 2011, p125)

The discussion following the presentation raised some other issues, including the important role of the ‘host’ in doing this sort of residency based work. This is something that the Artist Placement Group highlighted in the late 60s but continues to be an issue. If an artist is going to work in a context, especially one where there is an existing community, it is essential that someone in that community acts as a host, doing those things a host does. This includes doing the introductions but also discretely making sure that the artist doesn’t step on toes. It means making sure that the artist is included in community activities where appropriate, but also protecting the artist from internal niggles and ongoing wrangles. A member of the audience pointed out that when this works well the host becomes a co-creator of the process.

The other subject that was raised from the floor focused on the extent to which these sorts of projects involving artists in healthcare buildings are actually patching up bad architecture. There was some feeling in the room that this was the case. Of course the specific projects that had been presented were work done in older buildings, but…

What is distinctive is the participatory and co-creative process that artists are using. Although some of the younger architecture practices also do this, the larger more established ones, particularly doing public sector work, are not. Nor would it be easy for them to, given that they are embedded in the supply chain, usually employed by the main contractor, not even the client.

What is also distinctive is the blurring of art, design and architecture. This project could have been done by a young design or interior architecture studio. It’s not the art specifically that makes this distinctive, rather it’s the turn to participation and co-creativity.

There were other good points made from the floor which I haven’t covered here, but the overriding one is that we need more presentations like this, and more time for the ensuing discussions.



UZ Arts is an international arts charity based in Glasgow. We create our own work and collaborate with artists and producers who wish to work across art forms and across borders creating work outside conventional arts venues – often in public space.

We commission artists and support the development of their work through residencies, hothouses and collaborating as their producers or co-producers. In the last 3 years we have commissioned over 60 artists in 8 countries but with more than 50% of the work being made in Scotland.

Much of the work we make or support is sited . That is to say site specific – made for a particular place or site located – made for a particular type of location.
Some of the artists we work with engage with the public either as a source of inspiration or as collaborators in the delivery of their work

What art have I seen?

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 15, 2014

Causeway might have been about events from 100 years ago, but it spoke to political activism today, and connected back to Robert Burns’ own politics (remember the unsubstantiated story that Burns might have been involved in gun running to the French Revolutionaries?).  The conversations could have been happening amongst any group of serious activists, such as on the Rainbow Warrior or amongst WTO or G8 protestors.

Activists will eventually come up against the questions the Suffragettes were facing in 1914 when, 10 years after the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and forty years after the first Suffrage organisation in Britain, nothing was changing.  Politicians were prevaricating.  Activists were being told to go home and mind the children.

Frances Parker, Lord Kitchener’s niece) and Ethel Moorhead (an established artist) had already burnt down a stand at Ayr Racecourse.  They had broken windows, trashed police cells and had both been in prison and had both been force fed.  They were ‘turbulent’.

Victoria Bianchini and David Overend (writer and director/producer respectively) and Pamela Reid, Annaliese Broughton and Jamie McGeechan (aka Little Fire) (the performers), drew out the commitment through the reimagined experience of cycling 38.9 miles from Glasgow to Alloway, through the arguments about what can make a difference, what is legitimate protest, how to achieve social change.

The personal relationship between Parker and Moorhead was evoked beautifully.  It was sharply drawn through Moorhead’s guilt at leaving Parker in the hands of the nightwatchman when they were caught with the bombs at the Cottage.  Parker was put in Perth Prison and particularly brutally force fed when she went on hunger strike.  Moorhead’s trauma on seeing Parker’s bruised and battered body when they were reunited was powerful stuff, as was Parker’s statement to the Court.

Parker and Moorhead wanted equality (as did Robert Burns in his time).  It is The Establishment that’s the enemy, as it was 250 years ago when Burns wrote ‘A Man’s A Man For All That’, as it was 100 years ago for the Suffragettes, and as it is now for Occupy.  And Burns Cottage (not the man himself) was a symbol of The Establishment, of The Club that privileged men.


Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 11, 2014

MerzBarn site on the Cylinders Estate near Elterwater in the Lake District (Photo Chris Fremantle)

The Chicken Shed near MerzBarn on the Cylinders Estate near Elterwater in the Lake District (Photo Chris Fremantle)

When you visit the MerzBarn at Elterwater, now being cared for and developed by the Littoral Trust, you realise that Kurt Schwitters may have “ended up in Langdale like a piece of flotsam on the currents of a world war,” but it is a remarkable place and his presence is distinctive. Schwitters is also somewhat of a Trojan Horse. Living as an artist refugee he painted landscape scenes and portraits whilst simultaneously working on a new Merzbau (Schwitters called these works Merzbau which translates as ‘Merz buildings’. He called this work specifically MerzBarn.  Merz is a word Schwitters found in the process of making a collage in 1919). On the one hand he conformed to a Lake District stereotype, and on the other he steered the direction of 20th Century Art.

You can see there are some serious tensions embodied in this landscape. It was necessary in the mid 60s, and probably in the terms of the time correct, to remove one whole wall of the Barn and take it into a museum to be preserved. Thus the ‘art’ bit of the Merzbarn is now in the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle. The analogy might be the Elgin Marbles: something conceived of as a ‘whole’ (art and architecture) that has been separated. Art, sometimes the legacy of great cultures, is political, but is often managed by people who are unwilling to acknowledge the political dimension as ‘present’ rather than historical.

So outside the MerzBarn each year Littoral organises an event where the names of all the artists included by the Nazi Party as Entartete Kunst Degenerate Art (including Schwitters and more than 100 others) are read out and then written in chalk on the wall of the MerzBarn. This symbolic act might seem curious standing outside a tiny barn on an estate in Cumbria, rather than perhaps in a square in Berlin or at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but the symbolism of the last place a refugee artist worked is rich and powerful (and draws other artists to work there now).

The avoidance of politics in art were replayed in the Schwitters in Britain exhibition at the Tate last year where it was clear that the curators focused on the paintings with only nods to the other media such as the sound poetry and the Merzbau. The curators of the contemporaneous Duchamp exhibition The Bride and the Batchelors at the Barbican succeeded in creating a space for works across multiple media including dance and performance, sound, set design and visual art. The curators at the Tate chose a different trajectory, offering what was really a conventional exhibition of paintings with some contemporary art tacked on the end (not that Provost and Chodzko’s contributions were negligible). But the positioning of contemporary art in the exhibition inevitably pushed the works by Schwitters into the past in a way that the construction of a multi-media environment at the Barbican brought Duchamp, Cage, Cunningham, Johns and Rauchenberg into the present. A different trajectory was created by the reconstruction of the MerzBarn in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in London as part of the Modern British Sculpture show.

The Langdale landscape is in a constant state of flux: a dialogue between human and non-human agencies. It was the non-human agencies that necessitated the removal of the ‘art’. But the way the Littoral Trust is imagining the site conceives of the MerzBarn (the original barn with the missing wall reinstated) in a state of flux. The circumstances at Elterwater are open to that process of change, where the part of the work in the care of the Hatton is ‘preserved’. The Littoral Trust brings its 30+ years of knowledge and work as a social and political art organisation to the development of the MerzBarn. In addition to events to honour the memory of artists called ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi Party, there is an art making and outdoor education programme for children and young people – and of course Schwitters’ Merz works, his use of found waste materials, and his ‘painting with nails’ approach are a Trojan Horse in the context of conventional primary school art.

As the Armitt Museum (which has its own collection of Schwitters’ works from his time in the Lake District)  website says in describing the first Merzbau, “It was unfinished because it was unfinishable; it was environmental and engulfing in scope, but its significance was that it marked the birth of installation or conceptual art that we see today.” In the capable hands of the Littoral Trust the state of unfinishedness is an asset and an opportunity.

Suffragettes and Burns Cottage

Posted in Civics, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on May 27, 2014

Causeway flyer JPEG

I don’t know how many of you are aware that Lord Kitchener’s niece was a Suffragette and that she and another Scottish Suffragette cycled down to Alloway and attempted to blow up Burns Cottage in 1914?  David Overend and Victoria Bianchini have developed a new promenade performance work which you can experience in Alloway on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th June 2014.  You can get tickets from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

What art have I seen?

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on May 3, 2014

Rosnes Benches, Dalziel + Scullion, 2014, Otter Pool, Dumfries and Galloway (Photo: Chris Fremantle)

Rosnes Benches, Dalziel + Scullion, 2014, Otter Pool, Dumfries and Galloway (Photo: Chris Fremantle)

Rosnes Benches.  Took Jana Weldon, Senior Public Art Project Manager for Scottsdale in Arizona, to see some of Dalziel + Scullion‘s Rosnes Benches in Dumfries and Galloway yesterday.  She also came in a heard presentations from the MFA Art Space and Nature at Edinburgh College of Art earlier in the week.

The team including Dalziel + Scullion, Kenny Hunter, Wide Open and Jim Buchanan have done a fantastic job realising this project – thirty benches are installed in clusters across the Dark Skies/Biosphere area of Dumfries and Gallowa, but they look like it’s been there for a long time.  The benches themselves are really comfortable.  They skim beautifully between being surfboards on land, referencing cup and ring marks, a bit hippy but really elegantly done.  They speak of a different relationship with the trees, birds, rivers, peat moss, boulders and other elements around them.

Recent publications on art in new healthcare buildings

Posted in Arts & Health, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 18, 2014

Updated 22 3 2014

This is a short summary of books on arts & health from Glasgow and Scotland that I’m aware of and have on a shelf.  Any reminders and recommendations happily received.  Artists and organisations try to produce books of these projects because firstly they are participatory and durational so sometimes the book is the only tangible outcome, but secondly they are not generally visible to the public beyond immediate communities hosting the projects, so this is the only means of showing what happened and why it mattered.

There have been several books produced to document arts projects in new healthcare buildings in Glasgow.  These join the books produced by Art in Hospital highlighting their long term work with patients.  Also included in this provisional bibliography are other books of Scottish projects.

Space to Heal: Humanity in Healthcare Design. (2009) is published by Reiach and Hall Architects, and reflects their thinking at the time they completed the New Stobhill Hospital.  Includes essays by Andy Law (Architect) and Thomas A Clark (poet).

The Grace of the Birch: Art Nature Healing, the Collection for the Ward Block, New Stobhill Hospital (2011).  Edited by Dr Lindsay Blair documents the new Collection of artworks forming a ‘choosing wall’.  Probably available from Reiach and Hall (above) or Jackie Sands (below).

Aware of Time: Art Poetry Healing, Renfrew Health and Social Work Centre (2012).  Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.  ISBN 978-1-906150-17-4.  Documentation of the project with Richard Dunn and Toby Paterson, curated by Dr Lindsay Blair.  Probably available from Reiach and Hall (above) or from Jackie Sands, Arts & Health Senior, Health Improvement, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, West House, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 OXH.

Dignified Spaces: Designing Rooms for conversations within the clinical environment. (2013)  Alexander Hamilton’s catalogue associated with the exhibition/website on the Dignified Spaces project for the New South Glasgow Hospitals, setting out design ethos and participation programme.  Available as download (catalogue dignified spaces), or from Jackie Sands (as above).  This project was also presented at the European Design 4 Health Conference, Sheffield, 2013 and will be included in the proceedings.

Art in Hospital publications
If they are still available, they can be obtained from Art in Hospital (Order form here – contact details on the website).

“I’ll be doing this sky in my dreams tonight” Art in Hospital (2006).  Published by Art in Hospital.  This is an excellent overview of the work of this organisation which has been working with patients in hospitals in Glasgow since 1991.

Object Scores, Kirsty Stansfield and Art in Hospital (2007).  Published by Art in Hospital.  Documents, through reproducing an extended email exchange, the Object Scores project.

The Pattern of a Bird. (2008). Published by Art in Hospital. ISBN 13 978-0-9554440-2-9.  Documentation and essays on arts in palliative care.

Artlink Edinburgh publications

A number are available electronically from the website.

200 Years 200 Objects. Mark Dion. (2013).  Published by Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians.  ISBN 978-0955188268.  Part of the Ever Present Past project.

Extraordinary Everday: Explorations in Collaborative Art in Healthcare.  (2005). Published by Artlink Edinburgh ISBN 978-0-9551882-0-6.  Documenting and discussion the Functionsuite programme of work, 14 collaborative art projects that took place in hospitals across Edinburgh and the Lothians between 2003 and 2005.

Something in the Pause (2009) Nicola White.  Published by Artlink Edinburgh ISBN 978-0-9551882-2-0 and available electronically as above.  A story about an artist, and infomatics specialist and a man with a liking for music.

Other Scottish

The Sanctuary: The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh: A space designed by Donald Urquhart. (2003). Published by Ginkgo Projects ISBN 1-904443-01-X  Documents the award winning Sanctuary at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  Copies might be available from Ginkgo Projects.

ARTworks Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital 2006-2009.  Published by Grampian Hospital Art Trust. documents the participatory work leading to installed artworks in the new Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen.  It should be available from The Archie Foundation or from the Grampian Hospital Art Trust.

Creative Therapies.  Undated, self-published. Documentation of their art therapy work with East Dunbartonshire and South Ayrshire Councils which is probably available from them.


Posted in Producing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 16, 2014

Revisiting a project from 2001.  You can see front and centre the furnace, to the back left the bridge and on the right the iron arc cast in situ over the Deskry in one evening.  This is the first time I’ve been back to the site since the morning after when we opened the mould.

George Beasley and Helen Denerley with many helpers, 2001, Boundaries.  Photo Chris Fremantle

George Beasley and Helen Denerley with many helpers, 2001, Boundaries. Photo Chris Fremantle

The result of a collaboration between two artists working with metal.  Photo Chris Fremantle (sorry for quality)

The result of a collaboration between two artists working with metal. Photo Chris Fremantle (sorry for quality)


Art in Salutogenic Design Dominic Pote

Posted in Arts & Health, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 16, 2014

This blog by Dominic Pote discusses well-being and how artworks can contribute to a sense of health.  It draws on ideas of ‘coherence’ as a way to understand health and well-being.  Well worth reading Art in Salutogenic Design | by Dominic Pote Fine-art photographer.

Presenting at Enhancing Lives Through Arts & Health, Houston, TX

Posted in Arts & Health, CF Writing, Producing, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on March 7, 2014

My proposal for a paper “Scottish artists bring nature into healthcare” has been accepted for the Global Alliance for Arts & Health 25th Conference in Houston, Texas in April.

The abstract is,

Scotland has a strong portfolio of arts and health projects including both public art installations within healthcare buildings and participatory programmes, in particular with people with long term conditions. This presentation will focus on public art installations by artists and designers which use biophilic and other design approaches to bringing nature into buildings. It addresses the conference themes of Patient Care, Healing Environments and Caring for Caregivers.

It is well known thanks to the work of Robert Ulrich that views of nature contribute to patient recover, and it is clear from the work of Stephen Kaplan that views of nature can play a role in restoring our ability to give our attention. OPENspace Research at Edinburgh College of Art ( ) has further substantiated the connections between nature and wellbeing focusing on inclusive access to the outdoors.

In Scotland there have been a number of projects in the context of Healthcare where artists and designers have specifically sought to use art and design to bring nature into buildings in addition to what the architects and landscape designers are able to achieve.

Four key examples are:

Thomas A Clark’s ( project with the architects Reiach & Hall, ‘A Grove of Larch in a Forest of Birch,’ for the New Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow integrated poetry and visual arts into what the architects described as the architecture of waiting. The Aim was to create spaces in which users of the hospital could wait for appointments in “a place apart having the brightness and stillness of a woodland glade.”

Alexander Hamilton’s ( Designing for Dignity ( is an approach that draws on a deep understanding of the Victorian poet and artist John Ruskin and of the more recent Biophilia Hypothesis. Hamilton is currently developing designs including furniture and art for the Quiet or Family rooms in the New South Glasgow Hospitals based on an extensive programme of creative engagement. Hamilton is also working on the design of a healthcentre in Glasgow.

Dalziel + Scullion’s ( practice is increasingly focused on addressing nature deficit disorder. Their work encompasses exhibitions and public art. Their scheme for the wards of the New South Glasgow Hospitals will bring the whole landscape of Scotland into one building. Their project Rosnes Benches, currently being installed in the landscape of Dumfries and Galloway, they have also contributed work to the Vale of Leven Health Centre (

Donald Urquhart has completed public art projects for four mental health hospitals including most recently Midpark Acute Mental Health Hospital ( and developed Sanctuary spaces for both hospitals and universities. His award winning design for the Sanctuary at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has become a benchmark (

These artists and others demonstrate key aspects of the role of art in bringing nature into healthcare contexts including focus on characteristics of nature such as colour, pattern and movement. As artists they use attention, framing and synthesis.

In addition to sharing these developments with the conference audience I hope to identify other artists exploring similar issues.

I’m very much hoping to find other artists and designers working along these lines with the depth of thinking as well as the quality of work.

Nairn Primary Care Centre

Posted in Arts & Health, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on December 23, 2013

Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson have made two new works for the Nairn Primary Care Centre, in a project managed by IOTA.  They have installed two elements:

Little Birds connects the inside with the outside, building on recent research into the impact of birdsong on wellbeing.  You can see the work here.

Hand Heart Head is an eight screen video installation developed with the choreographer and dancer Janice Parker.  Have a look here.

Recent Public Art Install

Posted in Arts & Health, Sited work by chrisfremantle on December 5, 2013

What a lovely, simple and effective idea from Ally Wallace – a great response to the architecture and courtyards of the new Hospital in Bristol. Very much look forward to seeing the rest of the scheme

Ally Wallace

The recent install of my public art piece for Bristol’s new Southmead Hospital.  Nine painted aluminium discs atop posts, protruding from planting, to be viewed through windows of upper floors.  The building opens in March 2014.



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Deep Routes: research, scale and indigeneity

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 26, 2013

The Financial Times at the end of 2012 carried a review of an exhibition by Zeng Fanzhi at the Gagosian Gallery. The review opens with the following couple of sentences,

It has finally happened – a solo exhibition of a Chinese artist whose power and interest does not depend on Chinese themes or subject matter. Since the 1990s, China has been the promised land of the global arts scene, but not one of the numerous group shows staged in the past decade – at Tate Liverpool, the Saatchi Gallery, the Hayward – has been able to make a case that artists from the region are of more than local concern.

The image that accompanied the review is of one of Zeng’s paintings, a reworking of Durer’s ubiquitous Hare some 4m square, the surface appearing to be deeply cracked. Whether this was an ironic statement on the import of the canonical tradition of Western Art from the perspective of the East, or an aesthetic judgement, or the quality of the reproduction on pink paper, I don’t know. I didn’t see the exhibition and I haven’t read the press release.

It may be that in the ambit of art criticism published in the FT and moving elegantly between the transnational art fairs and galleries that construct value through those environments, this artist is significant. It may be that because this artist reworks iconic images from canonical western art that they are therefore of ‘power and interest.’ Their ‘power and interest’ might perhaps lie in the exquisite development of the surface of the canvas through brilliant brushwork, or their use of colour, seeming to soak the hare in the night-time neon lights of Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York or LA.

This painting, and the others in the exhibition, and in fact all the work for sale in Gagosian, or in any of the other key galleries and art fairs, only exists at the global level. As the review rightly states what is important at this level is that the work cannot be of local concern, it must speak to The Universal, the abstracted, deterritorialised. It will exist in no-place because thanks to the hard work of the FT reviewer and the hard work of the Gagosian curatorial team ensuring that their merch is only seen in the right places, it’s value has nothing to do with an specific locality, any personal intimate space, any town or region. It might hang in a domestic interior for a period, but it is more likely to go into storage in a warehouse somewhere as an investment: value stored for future exchange.

The reviewer wouldn’t have to highlight this point reviewing a Richard Serra exhibition (such as the one that opened Gagosian’s London space). It would be taken for granted that Serra was of global interest and power, an important element moving in the circuits of value of the international art world. A Chinese artist has now been allowed into this club.

Claire Pentecost, in her essay (pdf: Pentecost Notes on Continental DriftNotes on the Project Called Continental Drift offers an alternative structure for thinking about art. Her structure, and the wider structure of the book Deep Routes: The Midwest In All Directions (Compass Collaborators, 2012 see bottom for ways to get a copy), precisely values an analysis which is interested in multiple levels (p.17),

We aim to explore the five scales of contemporary existence: the intimate, the local, the national, the continental and the global. Within the mesh of scales, we want to understand the extent of our interdependence, how any action we may take has effects on and is shaped by all these scales at once. We attempt to understand these dynamics so that we can understand the meaning of our own actions, the basis for an ethical life.

But for Pentecost, global is not the exclusive realm of ‘power and interest’. Rather her global is a scale at which it is necessary to look to see the entwined flows that articulate our everyday lives. She wants to look at the food on our table (perhaps the jugged hare) and through following the lines of connection to see that we are connected to the workers making ceramics in China for sale in IKEA in Long Island City (cf Ai WeiWei perhaps). And through that examination to see the Phillippino crews of container ships continuously circumnavigating the planet (cf for instance Allan Sekula). For her the global simply cannot exist in isolation. No artist’s interest and power should be divorced from local themes and subject matters. It is simply not possible – those elements can be ignored, but they still exist – practically speaking iron ore is mined, corten steel is produced in foundries, barges, trucks and planes move sculptures. There are social and environmental interactions. A sculpture can be a sign separated from all the realities that are involved in it’s production and presentation – deracinated – separated from all considerations except value to enable it to circulate freely in this global space.

And where the exhibition at Gagosian and the review in the FT are elements in the urgent construction of capital, Pentecost takes us on a detour into a mis-remembered quote trying to latch onto an articulation of a different way of dealing with signs and the value they convey, or actually deferring dealing with signs and value (p.23),

… to the point where many of us aspire to practice an intricate, processual, and research-motivated version of art that resists evaluation by the prescriptive teams of institutions and markets.

Where for the critic and the gallery the essential acts are focused on the carefully orchestrated production and affirmation of the sign as value, Pentecost following the French artist Francois Deck, suggests that the most important act is to operate at the point before the sign is ‘finalised’ and value is conferred. So the artwork is always unfinished, it is always a project, precisely because at the point we confer value, that thing, whatever it is, whether food or art, moves into warehouses and other structures designed to enable and enhance the mobility of capital.

Pentecost’s essay is one of two that open up Deep Routes. Pentecost establishes some key points in a landscape characterised by the financial crisis and the occupy movement. The themes and contexts of the book are focused by the specificity of the midwest of the United States of America. Reading the book we get to know particular places such as Beardstown, IL, exploring through Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross’ glossary of terms the ‘vertical integration’ of a small town into global commodities markets through ‘the cold chain,’ ‘engineered tiling,’ GMO, chemical fertilizers and GPS mapping. Matthias Regan’s narrative offers a different trajectory, of a Greyhound bus journey from Chicago to Detroit. This is a gentle, reflective meditation on breakdown in which (p.188),

The future does not emerge from amongst the technocratic elite; it will not be driven by new inventions in digital media. We should seek it instead in what is meager and humble, tentative and transitioning. Not rushing away from breakdown, but opening ourselves to its after effects.

The other key trajectory established from the outset in Deep Routes takes us into indigenous experience, practice, pedagogy and critique. Alongside the spatial, economic and experiential journeys of the other authors, Dylan AT Miner’s interviews with First People’s organisers punctuate the book. Miner has been pursuing a project of imagining that we can all be indigenous – it’s not a condition restricted by genealogy, but rather a practice and a philosophy – a way of making sense of the world.

Near the end of the book, in the last interview, Jill Doerfler and Miner discuss tribalography, a methodology developed by by LeAnne Howe. Jill studied with LeAnne and explains the emergence of tribalography (p.228),

LeAnne has explained that tribalography grew out of the Native propensity to connect things together. It is the idea that Native writers often tell stories that combine autobiography, history, and fiction; we tell stories that include all these elements and also work in collaboration with the past, present, and future. …

Jill goes on to say,

These stories are not generally about finding out what really happened but are meant to teach us something and show us our place within our families, communities, nations, and the world. I found that in addition to serving as a critical lens for literary study and as a theoretical framework for cultural analysis, tribalography can also serve as an abundantly fruitful methodological approach relevant across the interdisciplinary field of American Indian studies.

I happened across Deep Routes staying with Sarah Ross and Ryan Griffis in Chicago in the autumn of 2012 (I was introduced to them by Brett Bloom when I asked him for help finding somewhere to stay in Chicago). They had just received delivery of a number of boxes from the printers. There was one on the coffee table. I picked it up and started reading. I realised it was the sequel to MidWest Radical Culture Corridor: A Call to Farms, which I had come across a few years ago. I was in Chicago for the International Sculpture Conference, but in many respects this book is better art than much of what I saw in the conference presentations.  Not only did I meet Sarah and Ryan, but also Claire and Brian Holmes who came up with the concept of Continental Drift, and is the ’embedded’ critical theorist.

We ate preserved pears from the tree in their back garden and Sarah articulated some of the stress of working as a volunteer artist in a maximum security prison on her days off from teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For me the description of tribalography tallies with my experience as an associate of a practice-led research programme. Practice-led research in the arts is autobiography. It is often history (contextualising practices in relation to precedents). It moves across the past, present and future (it has been said that practice-led PhDs are ways for artists to reinvent their practices). Truth in the sense of replicable experiment is not at the heart of practice-led research. But most provocatively fiction is sometimes there too (Sophie Hope’s work Participating in the Wrong Way certainly brings ‘fictionalising’ to bear on research).

Methods, whether Pentecost’s revisiting of the Modern School movement of the early part of the last century or tribalography, positively radiate out of this volume. It is built on the experience of a creative community that exists in a particular territory. Their art is research motivated, processual and intricately interwoven at different scales and with different collaborators. Ironically this work is of global power and interest even if it is all about the Midwest.


You can order a copy here, or if you are in Scotland and we can meet, then I’ll lend you one.

What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 31, 2013

Glimpse, Will Levi Marshall and Donald Urquhart, 2013

Glimpse, Will Levi Marshall and Donald Urquhart, 2013.  Photo Chris Fremantle


Glimpse, Will Levi Marshall and Donald Urquhart, 2013. Photo Chris Fremantle

Glimpse, one of the Featured Projects in the Environmental Art Festival Scotland, is an ephemeral installation just off the A701 – we went into the woods at the Barony, but perhaps the best way to see the work is as you travel along the road between Dumfries and Moffat.

What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 30, 2013


Cinema Sark, Prof Pete Smith and John Wallace, 2013. Photo Chris Fremantle


Cinema Sark, Prof Pete Smith and John Wallace, 2013. Photo Chris Fremantle


Cinema Sark at the Environmental Art Festival Scotland.  It’s not often that video presented as sited work so elegantly uses it’s setting, or so engrosses the viewer.  This work is a meditation on the many dimensions of the Sark, the river that divides Scotland and England in the West.  The space under the M6 motorway is both a constant reminder of the context, but also an ideal location for the screening.

What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 14, 2013


Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on December 12, 2012

Billy Klüver reminds us of Jean Tinguely’s work on collapse in Artists, Engineers, and Collaboration Klüver-Billy-Artists-Engineers-and-Collaboration (published in Culture on the Brink: Ideologies of Technology, A Manifesto for Cyborgs. Bender, G. and Druckrey, T. (Eds) Dia Center for the Arts, Discussions in Contemporary Culture Number 9. Seattle: Bay Press, 1994).

Jean Tinguely came to New York City in early 1960. On seeing the city for the first time, he decided to build a large machine that would violently destroy itself in front of an audience in a theater, throwing off parts in all directions. A protective netting would save the audience. When the Museum of Modern Art invited Jean to build his machine in the garden of the museum, he asked me for help. I took him to the New Jersey dumps, which in those days were not covered with dirt. He found bicycle wheels, parts of old appliances, tubs, and other junk, which we hauled to the museum and threw over the fence into the garden.

Enlisting the help of Harold Hodges at Bell Laboratories, we built a timer that controlled eight electrical circuits that closed successively as the machine progressed towards its ultimate fate. Motors started; smoke, generated by mixing titanium tetrachloride and ammonia, bellowed out of a bassinet; a piano began to play and was later set on fire; smaller machines shot out from the sculpture and ran into the audience. In order to make the main structure collapse, Harold had devised a scheme of using supporting sections of Wood’s metal, which would melt from the head of overheated resistors. The whole thing was over in twenty-seven minutes. The audience applauded, and then descended on the wreckage for souvenirs. Jean called the event Homage to New York. During those three or four weeks of the construction of the machine I learned how to listen to the artist, and to give him as many technical choices as I could – as quickly as possible. And as Jean has said repeatedly since, it couldn’t have happened without our collaboration.

For information see

What art have I seen?

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on November 25, 2012

Heliotrope, Botanic Gardens, Glasgow.  Intense 12 minute experience of light and sound whilst lying down in a tent in the Kibble Palace.

If you are interested in the experience of the seasons, SADS, or public art as performance then you should experience this.  If you have a venue, then there is a tour being planned.

BONFIRE: Open International Architectural Competition. Papa Westray. Orkney

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on November 20, 2012

What art have I seen?

Posted in Sited work by chrisfremantle on November 8, 2012

Scotland vs The USA

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on October 4, 2012

Scotland vs The USA: Who has agency in public art?
Panel session at the ISC Sculpture Conference, Chicago.

Moderator: Chris Fremantle
Panelists: George Beasley, Mary Bates Neubauer, Jana Weldon

Presentations can be found on issuu.

Sensory Maps by Kate McLean

Posted in Arts & Health, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 10, 2012

Sensory Mapping of Cities – a smell map of Glasgow is a must.

Glasgow’s smells are of movement, of reinvention, of rebuilding, of regeneration. A city of renewal. Researched with contributions from author Michael Meighan (author of “Glasgow Smells” and “Glasgow Smells Better”) as well as commuters, residents, workers, tourists, the Glasgow City council. To be displayed and sniffed at the Glasgow Science Centre from September 2012.

It’s worth exploring the website – City of the Eternal Itinerant, Sensory Map of the Barras, Glasgow and the smelliest block in NYC this summer.

First people (not cars)

Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 8, 2012

Yesterday evening at the annual Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture the audience was charmed into seeing the world a different way and recognising our own failures in the process.  The lecture was given by Jan Gehl, an internationally acknowledged champion of urban quality focused on and driven by people and their well-being (rather than cars or egos).

In fact his critique of architects represented them as people who looked at the world from 3 kilometres up and dropped buildings into skylines.  His counter was that the skyline was not as important as the way that the building meets the ground.  In the analysis he offered us of Edinburgh, the topography and skyline are excellent, but the point where you move the human eye level you see the disaster.

His critique of traffic engineers was equally damning.  In his analysis the past 50 years have been dominated by the motor car at the expense of everyone and everything else.  In 2012 we need to make prioritising the car in public as unacceptable as smoking – that’s the level of challenge in effect Gehl was suggesting.

So much is true and in so many ways self evident, but the full ramifications of the analysis are wider and more comprehensive than you might think.  For instance, having a Department of Walking, Cycling and Transport?  Having the driver press the button at the junction to get permission to cross, rather than the pedestrian?  Having newspaper articles about bicycle congestion and demands for wider bicycle lanes?

What was a shame was that there were only a couple of artists in the room (lots of architects and obviously a majority of urban planners), but I didn’t see people who really ought to have been there – no-one from the VeloCity programme for Glasgow, no-one from Ayr Renaissance, and I didn’t recognise anyone from the health sector.

There was a really interesting question at the end.  The individual noted that Gehl had not used the word design once in his presentation.  The questioner contrasted this with the Scottish Government’s consultation on a new Policy on Architecture and Place-making.  Gehl basically said that he did two things.  He (and his practice) worked on “programmes and Strategies” and these set the tasks for the designers.  He (particularly in his academic life) worked on the in depth understanding of people and their experiences in public spaces.  These two obviously complement each other, but in essence he is ‘bracketing’ the designers – by evaluating (and that was his word) what works and what doesn’t, and then inscribing it into Programmes and Strategies, he is driving the design agenda.

For me this demonstrated an important articulation of the value of operating between the academic and the practice, as well as everything else he said.  It all seems so obvious when Gehl says it, but then you look around.

Maybe his books should be mandatory reading not only on urban planning programmes?

W.A.G.E. – 7pm on 18 September, Glasgow

Posted in Exhibitions, News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 23, 2012

W.A.G.E. (Working Artists for the Greater Economy) are speaking at a public meeting at The Art School (New Vic) 468 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, at 7pm on 18 September on their ‘exhibition fees’ campaign.

There will be an introduction by Charlotte Prodger and Corin Sworn and an open discussion.

This event has been organised by Transmission and the Scottish Artists Union.

Circulate the poster WAGE event 180912

What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 19, 2012

Socrates Sculpture Park: last visit was in 2009. This time the summer is taken up by Civic Action: A Vision for Long Island City, a show jointly put together with the Noguchi Museum. Civic Action includes projects by Mary Miss, Natalie Jeremijenko and xClinicRirkrit Tiravanija and George Trakas.

Quite a line up.

Civic Action, Photo Chris Fremantle

Various experiments in thinking about site, place, economy, conviviality and ecology. The projects started with discussions and seminars at the Noguchi Museum and have resulted in prototypes in Socrates.

Civic Action Curator, Amy Smith-Stewart states:

The exhibition at Socrates shows us what the neighborhood once was and what it could be. It asks questions. Why can’t the community reclaim its scenic riverfront? How can the cultural activity of the Park extend out beyond its immediate surroundings? Why does the ecology around us matter? And how can this place become an innovative district for artists, scientists and urban planners and how can the area improve the quality of life for New Yorkers?

What is Socrates: if a sculpture park is normally like a museum (ie looking after stuff), then Socrates is more like a contemporary art gallery (showing new ideas and installations) mixed with some aspects of a workshop (bringing communities into contact with artists). And its also a public park being used for walking, practising the trumpet and sitting in the sun.

The curatorial approach has also evolved. In the past it was perhaps more like a sculpture park as museum – some works installed for long periods, stand alone objects to be admired.

A publication for Civic Action would be good.

Civic Action, 2012, Photo Chris Fremantle

Making Policy Public – MAS CONTEXT

Posted in News, Research, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 18, 2012

Vendor Power, Copyright Kevin Noble for CUP

The Center for Urban Pedagogy‘s Making Policy Public series is a standout project engaging marginalised interest groups with designers and communities.  MAS Context provides and overview of the series here.  Its a good description, though it doesn’t offer a critical commentary.

Thoughts on Sculpture in the Landscape

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on July 10, 2012

“Your head can be everywhere, but your feet have to be some place.” Peter Berg

The sculptures at Glenkiln outside Dumfries (several Moores, an Epstein and a Rodin) can be found because they exist on maps, even the AA Road Atlas. They are located on the side of a glen overlooking a reservoir because of the initiative of an individual – a patron and owner of a Scottish estate.

Is sculpture in the landscape anachronistic?

It’s not high on the agenda for public art development. That agenda, taken in no particular order, would probably include: interdisciplinarity, duration, design teams, publics, commons vs privatisation, spaces for dissent. It would be rooted in the APG rubric “context is half the work”.  It might be driven by social or environmental concern.

I’m sorry I’m not able to attend the symposium Sculpture in the Landscape at Scottish Sculpture Workshop in August. The symposium proposes to address and define new concepts for outdoor public sculpture collections, focusing on the existing Lumsden Sculpture Walk. The brief for the Symposium is as follows:

SSW founder Fred Bushe, RSA OBE, established the Lumsden Sculpture Walk in 1985 in partnership with the local council. It was to provide a showcase for the work carried out by SSW artists, integrate SSW with the village of Lumsden, and become an arts destination and cultural site. Moving on three decades, SSW would like to address the current state of the site and the artworks, and look into ways of rejuvenating the walk for future generations. In doing so, we feel it is pertinent to explore contemporary critical thinking regarding public art, and consider how outdoor sculpture collections can become dynamic and relevant in the 21st century.

Item one on the Agenda: The construction of the public and private realms, the revealing of difference, the imagining of spectacle. These are all deeply underpinned by the complexity of modern overdeveloped societies and the greater complexity of ecological systems on which we are reliant. It’s creating work “within a ‘mesh’ of social, political and phenomenal relations” (TJ Demos). Interdisciplinarity is not sexy and desirable – it’s the necessary response to complexity. It’s the necessary relinquishing of ego when faced with innumerable unnameable interwoven challenges – think of the Flow Chart of the Declaration of Occupy Wall Street, and the adoption of anonymity, not just for personal safety, but also to foreground issues over personalities. In The Guide to This World & Nearer Ones (2009), Creative Time’s temporary public art project on New York’s Governors Island, Nils Norman is quoted as saying,

“I’ve been looking at the history of bohemian artist movements to find a possible place of dissention. Is Bohemia still a place where artists can experiment and develop strategies outside the mainstream? The normalising effect of the market makes this now almost completely impossible, and Bohemia has been instrumentalised by people who make direct links to ‘creatives,’ bohemian lifestyles and a new class of urban entrepreneurs through city regeneration. Where can alternatives be developed? Where is it possible to drop out and develop new languages and codes.”

Item two: Geometry. Numbers, algebra and other truths, which by their essential nature appear to stand outside time, provide a false sense of certainty in a world which is in a state of constant change. The use of geometry in architecture and art makes the world we construct for ourselves seem to have something to do with the unchanging ideal, whereas our lived experience is caught between on the one hand organised growth and on the other entropy. The architects’ angle (Libeskind) or curve (Gehry) may be generated in digital space and realised through CAD driven routers and saws, but in 50 or 100 years the angle and curve will have changed in response to the environment. Duration, maintenance, care – these are perhaps the more interesting challenges. Merle Laderman Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art written in 1967 remains a provocation. In response to a recent Workshop on time, it seemed to me that artists involved in work in public have developed strong skills around spatial strategies and critiques, but the discussion of time is less nuanced – the time of the project, exhibition, residency is dominant. Hamish Fulton’s work NO TALKING FOR SEVEN DAYS is a challenge I’ve stared at for 10 years.

Item three: Training requirements. Firstly teamwork. If the question is interdisciplinarity then we need training. Who are ‘we’? We are in particular visual and applied artists. We are better networked, better collaborators, and have more social capital than we did in 1985, let alone in 1958. But we still arrive in a place (meeting/site) and think “What (from my sketchbook/back pocket) will I do here?” We might no longer think “Which piece of work in my studio can I plop down here?” We might now think “What is this place about and which of my tactics will engage with this place in the most interesting way?” How does our training equip us to fully engage within teams and with inhabitants (human and other)? Do we speak each others’ languages? Can the artists communicate effectively with the (landscape) architects? Do the architects understand collaboration? Can the hierarchies of professional status be set aside?

Item four: Who pays? Pre-enclosure, pre-agricultural improvements, common land provided subsistence for the majority of the population. Subsistence meant collecting firewood, grazing beasts and fowl, harvesting leaves, fungi, roots and fruits. The question of commons and enclosure (for which we can read privatisation) is as sharp now as it was then. It is sharp in Scotland because of the 2003 Land Reform Act (and a new tranche of funding for community land purchases has just been announced). It is sharp in Lumsden because when you stand in the village the hills around are owned by just three estates. It’s also sharp because the new territory that we have discovered in the past 15 years, the territory of the digital, is also moving quickly from being one characterised by commons to one characterised by enclosure. Your personality is being enclosed and value extracted from it by Facebook. As someone recently said to me, Graphic Designers spend their time paying for and learning to use the next new iteration of software from Adobe and Apple. The development of Creative Commons licensing, Open Source software (OpenOffice, WordPress, VideoLAN, Mozilla‘s suite, etc) are all more than just free – they represent the ‘subsistence economy’ of the digital era.

So to the most important part of the agenda, open to the floor: how does a footpath along the side of a road, interrupted by a Primary School, enable anything useful to be developed in response to these issues?

Thoughts on VeloCity

Posted in News, Sited work by chrisfremantle on June 1, 2012

PAR+RS will be covering VeloCity, starting with this piece.  VeloCity is an ambitious programme for Glasgow’s public realm leading up to the Commonwealth Games, 2014, and looking beyond.  Glasgow has used key events (Garden Festival, 1988; European City of Culture, 1990; City of Architecture and Design, 1999.

Work in Progress

Posted in Producing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on May 29, 2012

Public Art Scotland 'Work in Progress' installed in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, for the Scottish Government's International Summit on Architecture and Place, May 2012 (Photo: Chris Fremantle)

Public Art Scotland ‘Work in Progress’ installed in The Lighthouse, Glasgow, for the Scottish Government’s International Summit on Architecture and Place, May 2012 (Photo: Chris Fremantle)

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