Public Spaces Project - ‘Recording movement and spatial disruption - 5 walks in Millennium Square, 2018’

If space is a product of the characteristics of society including its values, beliefs, practices and systems of power (as proposed by Lefebvre), then what does a specific space say about us, the way we live, the forces shaping our society, affecting every aspect of our lives? How far do we recognise what is really going on? Or are we too busy, unaware, uninterested, silently complicit as our world is continually reshaped around us.

 This growing body of work seeks to explore these questions in the context of a specific urban public space. Based on GPS-data recordings of five walks in Leeds Millennium Square prior to and during various public events in 2018, the work emerges from the artist’s working processes of physical engagement with the subject, data gathering and analysis, response to everyday materials, repetition and deconstruction. In each walk the artist intends to follow a very similar route in walking around and across the Square in a systematic grid pattern. However, each event creates areas where the space is no longer accessible to the public, a disruption to public space. The route of each walk is disrupted, reflected in the GPS data. 

A series of large screenprints shows these patterns of movement in and around the Square during the public events. In each case the pattern varies according to the specific use of the Square and the areas that become inaccessible to the public. These prints are ‘map-like’ in nature and reflect the process of walking, gathering data and presenting a visual representation of how access to the space is changing.

The patterns of movement have also been deconstructed into over 100 individual abstract fragments of space and movement, captured individually in small screenprints and presented in large digital compositions. These prints have been produced intuitively, exploring variations in colours, patterns, and complexity of layering. They are a further development of the process-based work, rather than a documentation of the process itself, but still emphasising the complexity of each point in space and of the forces shaping that space. These individual fragments of space are also emphasised by transforming their scale in large monoprints. 

Much of the space in which we live is subject to constant change, which we are expected to accommodate and over which we have little direct control. Spatial change is frequently effected by an infrastructure of control of physical movement, most notably by steel ‘control’ barriers, near ubiquitous objects in our urban landscape. The body of work includes three repurposed steel crowd control barriers, integrating welded steel representations of patterns of movement before and during the public events. Barriers may carry multiple associations for us – they allude to restriction, control, appropriation and protest but also to safety and leisure. Repurposing the barriers and presenting then in an artistic context disrupts their original function and asks the viewer to consider them in more detail, the uses to which they are put and whether our (lack of) response to them is too complicit and accepting.

The body of work seeks to connect multiple viewpoints of space. The acts of walking and repetition allow the artist to experience the changing nature of the physical space over time, to understand it in more detail and to connect to different communities of users of the space. The public events reveal societal context in terms of the nature of the events and the use to which the Square is being put. The artist’s physical engagement with the space is recorded in data, whereby the process becomes a part of the mathematical ‘code’ of the space. The presentation of multiple contrasting elements of the work in combined installations prompts consideration of the complexity of the space and the artist’s processes, the contrasts between visual appearance and functional use, and of our physical movement in space as we encounter 2D and 3D objects.