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topologies | report



topologies outline

TOPOLOGIES is an initiative that has been researched and developed since 1998 by Proboscis. It aims to rethink existing manifestations of public art and the sites in which they are received by audiences. It aims to engage 'users' rather than 'viewers' and to commission and distribute works that are a catalyst for discovery, discussion and creativity.

TOPOLOGIES is designed to form 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 aims 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.

TOPOLOGIES is a key element of Proboscis' aim to explore and create dynamic new environments for cultural production and speculation. Its development forms part of the ongoing research programme, SoMa: social matrices think tank, recently founded by Proboscis. SoMa is a partnership between Proboscis, the School of Communications at the Royal College of Art, Media@lse (London School of Economics).

A more detailed outline is available in PDF format.



A condensed report of the research and feasibility study findings (supported by the Arts Council of England) is now available in PDF format:



8/2/2002: OPEN UNIVERSITY Library Research Seminar Programme
TOPOLOGIES and DIFFUSION: rethinking art, reading and public libraries
A Presentation by Alice Angus

28/6/2001: ARLIS UK & Ireland National Conference: I spy with my little eye: new ways of seeing art information - Session 2 (New ways of seeing art/public libraries)
Alice Angus: Topologies (artists books in public spaces)
Queen Mary & Westfield College, London

17/3/2001: Space Place Space Studios, London
Alice Angus: Topologies and Diffusion (artists books in public spaces)

Jan-Feb 2001: Research Trip to Canada
Alice Angus: presentations and discussions on Topologies

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,Halifax
Alberta College of Art and Design, Calgary
Telling Histories: Narratives in Historical Curating Think Tank, Banff International Curatorial Institute
Gallerie Articule, Montreal
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
Mercer Union Gallery & Gallery44, Toronto
Sheridan College, Toronto



In the current climate of arts funding and institutional restructuring, major public funding to realise a non-building-based national initiative like TOPOLOGIES is unlikely to materialise in the short term.

However, this does not invalidate the public benefit that the initiative could bring as a whole or by realising individual components as discreet projects. Proboscis is now consulting with key agencies and stakeholders to develop structures and funding to realise the initiative by other means. Proboscis is very keen to hear from organisations, institutions and businesses wishing to take part in this process. We are also interested in working with international agencies and organisations to develop the initiative outside of the UK. Please contact Alice Angus, project director.

Proboscis welcomes feedback from interested parties. For further information on the project or to inquire about participating, please contact:

Alice Angus Tel: 07710 679 909 Fax: 07031 151 738 Email:

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