Fotograf Magazine

Stephen Willats

It Starts with Agreement

In 2011, several artists and architects were invited by Hans Ulrich Obrist to meet at a round table discussion at Art Basel, on the subject of “The Artist as Urban Planner.” Over the course of the last decade, similar gatherings of eminent curators, critics and others working in the field of culture have become an almost mandatory part of art fairs, a sort of veneer of theory serving to veil the basic nature of the art business, the purpose of every “art festival.” Of the four panelists, Stephen Willats (b. 1943) struck one as the most acute; turning as he did to the audience, he was the only one who dared to observe the paradox that The Artist as Urban Planner – a theme implying a seminal shift regarding the paradigm of art practice towards contextuality, a site-specific focus on concrete locations and communities, and an orientation towards interdisciplinarity – was in fact being presented at an art fair, that is, an event which by its very definition was meant to uphold the concept of the work of art as an object. It is this very notion of art that Willats has been opposing since the beginning of the 1960s, first in the form of manifestos, and later through systematic publishing activities (among others via Control magazine, which he has been publishing since 1965), but above all by means of continuous dedication to projects and creative work.

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Brentford Towers, 1985, diagram
Brentford Towers, 1985, veřejná prezentace projektu