For a group exhibition titled City Limits, we chose to invite reflection and debate on the physical and social boundaries which often determine the patterns of city life — in this case by denying people access to some small, neglected fragments of public urban land. Although the site we chose marks the entrance to Hanley town centre, it was defined only by three irregularly shaped patches of grass, flanked with sloping brickwork and cut off by traffic on either side. Rather than using a public art commission to superficially enhance the site, we decided to make an intervention which would engage with the very conception of ‘Public’. By reinforcing the boundaries of these grass verges with an excessive display of authority in the form of steel security fencing we allowed the public to see, but not to walk on the grass, raising the status of the land through its enclosure. In the context of the contemporary debate around security and access within town centres, Camelot explored the political notion of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ in which resources not under private ownership fall into neglect. The project title, Camelot, refers to the phenomenally successful United Kingdom National Lottery, an institution on which many artistic and cultural projects are becoming increasingly dependent for money. The Lottery organisers’ choice of ‘Camelot’ evokes a mythical ‘golden
Bournville once offered a model of economic and social relations based on Quaker values, ‘benevolent patriarchy’ and the enforced stability of the British Empire. The codes of conduct have gone which once governed relations between the men and women who worked for Cadbury, although the gendered division of space is still visible. Today, Bournville is marked with Cadbury’s corporate purple on signs, doorways, lamp posts, and railings. On our first visit, we became interested in the ornamental pond which had been the focus of George Cadbury’s ‘Women’s Recreation Ground’ in the period when the Suffragettes used purple in their identity. Despite being in an architectural conservation area, the pond had suffered years of neglect; it had been drained and was being used as a tip for garden and builders’ waste. We had the pond repaired, the paving replaced with newly quarried stone, and new fountains installed. Cadbury’s filled the 37,000 gallon pond by diverting their factory water supply one night. We worked with their Food Scientist to formulate a solution of food-grade purple dye. The dye blotted out the light, preventing photosynthesis in a suffocating extension of the corporate identity. The water in the pond grew dark, translucent so that it was impossible to judge as to depth, and reflective so that its surface mirrored the surrounding garden and the viewer. Utopia played the part of a high profile and popular ‘gift’ to Cadbury’s. This drew the company into a situation whereby the pond — symbol of old time philanthropy — could not disappear without considerable loss of face. To a corporation poised between the pressure to conserve its tokens of benevolent paternalism, and the demands of its shareholders in today’s ‘free’ market, we hope this gave pause for thought.
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