Public spaces, meeting places… and privatisation

April 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

At the end of March I  headed up to draw Coventry indoor Market to spend a few days on the next leg of the Empty Shops Network Tour created by artist Dan Thompson (and involving Jan Williams (Caravan Gallery)Steve Bomford Natasha Middleton and podcaster Richard Vobes.) I’ve been commissioned to draw some of the spaces (and their occupants) the tour is visiting and Coventry Market follows from my drawings in Granville Arcade in Brixton.

Coventry Market

An ancient city, Coventry’s medieval buildings were almost all destroyed during the second world war blitz that devastated the city. Its rich history is crossed by stories of King Canute and Lady Godiva. Today Coventry now has a maze of traffic free precincts and modern buildings built in the postwar period and it is far from what the medieval city must have been.

These precincts are watched over by many surveillance cameras and again on this project I to the issue of private and public space that has come up so often for Proboscis in the last 2 years as we find ourselves prevented from taking photos in shopping malls and public squares. PD Smith writes about this issue in an interesting blog post about Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the 21st-century City, Anna Mintons Book looking at control, fear and the city.

Coventry’s indoor market is a circular space in which you can get lost, dizzy and a bit confused about which door you came in but in the process find everything from a cup of tea to 5 kinds of sweet potato, dog biscuits, birthday cards,  fake flowers, fresh rolls, loose cake mix, baking tins and graph paper. Its got a real sense or people mingling from different communities and backgrounds and ages using it to meet, chat and hang out, not just shop. They once celebrated it in a musical.

In many of our recent projects people tell us its less regulated more informal spaces that draw their communities together, Watford Market, Coventry Market, Brixton Market…But these more informal spaces are on the decline it seems and everywhere we see what Paul Kingsnorth wrote in In “Cities for Sale” : From parks to pedestrian streets, squares to market places, public spaces are being bought up and closed down, often with little consultation or publicity. In towns and cities all over England, what was once public is now private. It is effectively owned by corporations, which set the standards of behaviour. These standards are the standards that are most congenial to their aim – getting you to buy things. … There will be no busking, and often there will be no sitting either, except in designated areas. You will eat and drink where you are told to. You will not skateboard or cycle or behave “inappropriately”.

The Empty Shops Network is aiming to celebrate the kind of local distinctiveness that gets lost in these developments and it is working with communities to use empty shops for projects in the spaces and times inbetween other uses. The Network’s projects involve public meetings, informal training for local artists, and showcase the tools needed to run empty shops projects. See for details.

You can see more images from Coventry here.

Urban Tapestries Cuts

September 30, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Urban Tapestries Cuts from Proboscis on Vimeo.

A film made in 2006 which demonstrates several of the interfaces – PDA, mobile, web and Google Earth – that were made for various tests and trial of Urban Tapestries. Also contains footage of participants in the trials and bodystorming experiences.

Topographies and Tales

August 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

A film by Alice Angus and Joyce Majiski using music, oral recordings, drawing, animation and storytelling to playfully unearth local and personal stories, memories and myths against a picture of how concepts of space and environment are shaped by ideas of belonging and home. A personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments, Topographies and Tales takes a journey through the myths and perceptions the filmmakers encountered on their travels in the west of Scotland and the Yukon.

Topographies and Tales is part of Alice’s long term collaboration with Canadian artist Joyce Majiski. They began a collaboration in 2003 which took them to Ivvavik National Park in the Canadian Arctic, Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland, the Klondike Institute for Art and Culture in Dawson City, Canada, Joyce’s Tuktu Studio in Whitehorse and the Proboscis Studio in London.

Topographies and Tales, 12.52min 2009 from Proboscis on Vimeo.


November 5, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

Much of our work, especially our research activities, is inspired and guided by over-arching themes. In 2020 we adopted Civic Agency as our new theme.

Civic Agency

How to we make a difference as individuals and members of local communities in shaping the increasingly interconnected world in which we live? When our means and sources of communication and information are increasingly being gathered into the hands of fewer, but bigger companies and cabals of power? Civic Agency is our new theme focused on collective and collaborative ways to resist authoritarian and top-down exercise of power – to swim against the currents and find alternatives to normalising patterns that are presented as inevitabilities. Building on our past themes and work, Civic Agency seeks to inform strategies and tactics of subversion and to challenge normative futures with other possibilities.

Read more…

Previous Themes (2001-2019)

Public Goods (2011-19)

Public Goods is our new theme focused on making and sharing tangible representations of the intangible things we feel are most precious about the places and communities we belong to, such as stories, skills, games, songs, techniques, memories, local lore and experiential knowledge of local environment and ecology.

What is most precious about the places and communities in which we live, work and play?

How can we begin to communicate the value of the intangible goods and assets that define our attachment to people, places and things?

Britain is entering what promises to be the most radical transformation of our public services and social infrastructure since the establishment of the welfare state in 1945. As many of the more recognisable tangible assets (libraries, forests, public art and culture venues, arts activities) are run down, sold off or cut back, Public Goods aims to re-invigorate our appreciation of the immense ‘common wealth’ that persists in everyday life across the diversity of cultures in our society. It is a critical moment of artistic opportunity to investigate the resilience, adaptability and future of local communities.

See the project page on Public Goods and the Public Goods Lab for more details.

Cultures of Listening (2006-2011)

Since 2002 Proboscis has been exploring and developing the concept of Public Authoring, the everyday mapping and sharing of local knowledge and experience. We believe that it is just as important to listen to the voices of others as to make our own voice heard and that this skill is, in itself, a significant aspect of understanding citizenship, toleration and participation in democracy.

The act of listening is crucial to our vision of public authoring – where public authoring offers people a space to have a voice it also needs to encourage that voice to be heard and listened to. In the noise and confusion of the modern world, where we are bombarded with ever-increasing amounts of communication, it is becoming harder to listen, or find the time to listen to those around us.

Proboscis’ Social Tapestries (2004-08) programme can be seen as a metaphor to describe interdependence (of communities and people) through its exploration of how people weave threads of knowledge and experience across the public domain – creating a public knowledge commons. The everyday experience of sound and skills of listening are largely dominated by visual culture, yet cultures of listening are crucial to cultural experience and understanding human relationships; from the intimate to the civic, local to international. Social Tapestries aims to develop these practices of public authoring that in turn engender cultures of listening – places and spaces in which we pause to reflect on what we hear, to disentangle the meaning from the babble of noise.

Species of Spaces (2001-2005)

Species of Spaces explores the relationships between the physical and the virtual – how people navigate between the phenomenological world of the human senses and the invisible, immanent world of data and communications. SoMa acts as a facilitator and developer of new networks that lead to innovative collaborations, partnerships and alliances to explore how creative interventions can inspire and influence public policy and socio-cultural trends.
Projects include: Private Reveries, Public SpacesDIFFUSION: Species of SpacesPeer2PeerUrban TapestriesSocial Tapestries;

A Species of Spaces Diffusion series was commissioned and edited by Giles Lane between 2001-06

Liquid Geography (2001-2005)

Liquid Geography questions and explores contemporary perceptions of geography, territory and landscape. It encompasses our research into new and emerging forms of public art, and explores new sites for reception by investigating the relationships between audience and artwork, producer and participant, site and distribution.
Projects/experiments include: Landscape & Identity;Language & TerritoryTopographies & Tales
Sonic Geographies
TopologiesDIFFUSION: Liquid Geography;

Liquid Geography Diffusion series was commissioned and edited by Alice Angus between 2002-06

Social Tapestries

November 3, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Social Tapestries (2004-08) was a five year research programme of projects that grew out of our original Urban Tapestries project. The focus of Social Tapestries was to create a series of experiments in public authoring in challenging environments and with local communities that could begin to reveal the potential for emerging mobile media in enabling change through the mapping and sharing of knowledge and experience in everyday settings. We developed projects with two social housing groups (a residents’ committee and a short-life co-op), schools (a secondary near Hull and a primary in North London), residents/users of London Fields and people who lived and worked in Hoxton.

Project Website

Team: Alice Angus, Camilla Brueton, Kevin Harris, Giles Lane, Karen Martin, Sarah Thelwall and Orlagh Woods.

Partners & Collaborators: Birkbeck College; London School of Economics; Jenny Hammond Primary School; HIRO (Havelock Independent Residents Organisation); St Marks Housing Co-op, Kingswood High;;

Funded by Arts Council England, Ministry of Justice, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)

Art & Cartography

February 5, 2008 by · Comments Off on Art & Cartography 

Proboscis was invited to take part in the Art & Cartography symposium exhibition, zoom and scale, at the Academy of Fine Arts and Kunsthalle Wien project space, Vienna in January 2008. We exhibited a set of 27 StoryCubes exploring the Social Tapestries research programme, a set of 8 StoryCubes reflecting our creative practices and process and two films, Social Tapestries and Play to Invent.