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.

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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