TOPOLOGIES was an initiative a research project aiming to rethink existing manifestations of public art and the sites in which they are received by audiences. Proboscis was interested in exploring ways to engage ‘users’ rather than ‘viewers’ and to devise a model for commissioning and distributing artworks that could be a catalyst for discovery, discussion and creativity.

The TOPOLOGIES framework we developed proposed an integrated national (and international) initiative with four proposed components:

  • COMMISSIONS – new works (some derived from the residencies) which use distributable formats such as: visual (print-based or video); aural (audio CD); tactile (Braille, Moon or textile works); digital (CD-ROMs or online art). These artworks are designed to form part of public libraries’ lending and reference collections, to be used, handled, read, touched or listened to rather than simply seen in a glass case.
  • ARTISTS RESIDENCIES – hosted by partner organizations such as Public Libraries, Local Authorities, Museum, Galleries, Art Centres and educational institutions.
  • – a web portal with structured interpretation/ educational materials for schools, adult learning and academic uses, as well as directing users to other art-related websites. Intergrated with the Peoples Network and the National Grid for Learning.
  • ARTISTS BOOKWORKS COLLECTIONS – selections of exemplary artists bookworks curated by Proboscis and sited as individual collections with all 209 UK library authorities.

By intervening within such public sites, TOPOLOGIES aimed to introduce conceptual art practices (as distinct from public monuments and sculptures) to diverse and new audiences, attempting to widen the audience for contemporary art beyond the gallery experience. Public libraries are seen by Proboscis to be one of the UK’s most important cultural jewels, long-underfunded and lacking in support from central government. As sites for learning and culture they are unparalleled, offering a unique user-centred experience that is different from the viewer experience of a museum or a gallery.

TOPOLOGIES’ long term aim is to increase access to innovative cultural forms and to widen the understanding of artistic activity as a crucial part of the process of social and cultural regeneration.

Download Project Report (PDF 64Kb)

Team: Alice Angus, Giles Lane & Catherine Williams

Funded by the Collaborative Arts Unit, Arts Council England