Designing Britain Home Page ASS graphic title
  Art for Social Spaces
  Themes
  Contexts
Regeneration
Language
Spaces
  Case Studies
  Festival of Britain
Housing/Harlow
Schools
Precincts /Parks
  Resources
  Weblinks
Bibliography
  Assignments
  Image Archive
  Author
  Home
 

Designing Britain 1945 - 1975 > Art for Social Spaces > Themes > Spaces
 
SPACES

Introduction

ASS focuses on work produced for and/or sited in a particular kind of space – ‘social space’. This section invites you to consider the concept of ‘space’ alongside the different physical ‘spaces’ – sites, locations – available to sculpture.
 
Social/Public/Private

Is space neutral?

Even if it is empty, space is never indifferent. Uninhabited space has its own stories and histories.

The houses, rooms, nooks, corners and cupboards examined by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space are vessels for the imagination, locations of the soul, havens for objects
 
What psychology lies behind their locks and keys! They bear within themselves a kind of esthetics of hidden things. To pave the way for a phenomenology of what is hidden, one preliminary remark will suffice : an empty drawer is unimaginable. It can only be thought of.
G. Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, [first pub. 1958], Beacon Press, Boston, 1964, p. xxxiii.
 
The appropriation – or even the identification or acknowledgment – of physical space as a site or location involves a process of socialisation. Underlining the construction of ‘social space’, Lefebvre examined the notion of space as ‘product’,
 
Even in Venice, social space is produced and reproduced in connection with the forces of production (and with the relations of production). And these forces, as they develop, are not taking over a pre-existing, empty or neutral space, or a space determined solely by geography, climate, anthropology, or some other comparable consideration … […] … A social space cannot be adequately accounted for either by nature (climate, site) or by its previous history. Nor does the growth of the forces of production give rise in any direct causal fashion to a particular space or particular time. Mediations, and mediators, have to be taken into consideration : the action of groups, factors within knowledge, within ideology or within the domain of representations. Social space contains a great diversity of objects, both natural and social, including the networks and pathways which facilitate the exchange of material things and information.
H. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, [trans. D. Nicholson-Smith, first pub. 1974], Blackwell, Oxford, 1991
 
‘Social space’ may be difficult to define but so too is ‘public space’.
‘Public’ art is commissioned, produced and studied – and work is sited in the public domain. But what do we mean by public space? What do we mean by public? Who designates public space? Where is it?
 
Transport Pavilion from the Fairway; Festival of Britain, South Bank Exhibition ASS00233 Transport Pavilion from the Fairway; Festival of Britain, South Bank Exhibition

Click to view larger image View larger image
 
Warrington-The Home of Vladivar ASS00179 Warrington-The Home of Vladivar

Click to view larger image View larger image
 
In the early post-war years new spaces were created for public work, and case studies will explore some of these. Institutions such as the Arts Council, the British Council and local authorities like the London County Council played important roles in facilitating new spaces and generating new audiences for sculpture.
 
'The Neighbours' by Siegfried Charoux, 1959 ASS00962 'The Neighbours' by Siegfried Charoux, 1959

Click to view larger image View larger image
 
'The Pied Piper of Hamelin', wall relief by Willi Soukop ASS00967 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin', wall relief by Willi Soukop

Click to view larger image View larger image
 
More recently, following the 1980s boom in public art – with the percent for art campaign set up in 1988 with the support of the Arts Council – the idea of success has been viewed sceptically,
 
The received wisdom of public art professionals is that the public may grow to appreciate public artworks over time. It was also considered that the burdgeoning of public art would contribute towards the creation of new audiences for art. No evidence was found to support this view.
Institute of Policy Studies Report, 1995
 
After the war, private companies and the commercial sector played an increasing role in funding arts projects. Companies such as John Moores and Peter Stuyvessant are early examples of commercial involvement in the arts. Corporate sponsorship has increasingly branded projects, exhibitions and artworks. As global capital appropriates the urban environment and cyberspace – the internet and web communications systems - with branding, logos and hoardings, can we still talk about public space – or has can all space become public?
 
'Fulcrum' by Richard Serra,1987 ASS00944 'Fulcrum' by Richard Serra,1987

Click to view larger image View larger image
 
Top

Questions for discussion

What do you understand by ‘social space’?

Can you define public space? What are its boundaries? Who owns it?
 
Top

Texts

G.Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, [first pub. 1958], Beacon Press, Boston, 1964

Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions - Art and Social Politics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1996

Mel Gooding, Public: Art : Space, A Decade of Public Art, Merrell Holberton Publishers, Public Art Commissions Agency, London,1998

H. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, [trans. D. Nicholson-Smith, first pub. 1974], Blackwell, Oxford, 1991

Sergiusz Michalski, Public Monuments, Art in Political Bondage 1870-1997, Reaktion Books, London, 1998

S. Sadler, The Situationist City, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass./London, 1998

Harriet F Senie, Contemporary Public Sculpture – Tradition, Transformation and Controversy, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1992

Harriet Senie and Sally Webster, (eds.), Critical Issues in Public Art : Content, Context and Controversy, Smithsonian Institute Press, New York, 1992

John A Walker, Art and Outrage, Provocation, Controversy and the Visual Arts, Pluto Press, London,1999
 
Top

Next

You have now worked through all four Theme sections. You should now select a case study.
 
Top