artist / participant


press release

Stephen Willats: THISWAY
19.03.2016 - 29.05.2016
Opening: 18.03.2016 17:30

THISWAY– is the first major exhibition in Sweden by British conceptual artist Stephen Willats. Over the past year, Stephen Willats has worked closely with Index on this newly commissioned project, developed in collaboration with a group of residents in Stockholm. The project is based on workshops and interviews and will be presented at Index and further locations through the city.

For more than fifty years, British artist Stephen Willats has produced artworks that engage with social relations and the potential of art as a means to document and interact with people’s lives. Often working in social contexts that are not connected with art institutions, and collaborating with participants in an open-ended process, his practice can be seen as an early milestone in relation to a wider move in post-war art history, in which social relationships became the material or area of work for artistic interrogation.

For the exhibition in Stockholm, Willats worked with three participants from different parts of the city, producing photo collages as well as films. The discussion with participants centered on ways of how change plays out in people’s lives. Based on personal stories and images of objects and views with personal significance, the work is interested in the larger dynamic of transformation, in which the personal intersects with socioeconomic conditions. One person, a senior nurse, changed her career after significantly suffering from difficult working situations. Another participant escaped from Iraq to Sweden as a refugee and is re-establishing himself as an artist. The third person, having just finished school, is confronting a situation in which everything is possible. What the stories share is an interest in the moment in which social forces collide with desires for self-determination. New works are presented in the gallery space and the gardens surrounding Index, as well as in shop windows on Kungsholmen, Husby Bibliotek, the foyer of Moderna Museet, and through interventions in commercial advertising channels. In addition to the new works, collages and diagram drawings by Stephen Willats will be shown in the gallery.

THISWAY– functions as a model for how the material world is inhabited, structured through power relations, and in which different systems of meaning and counter-relations are created. Willats’ project draws vectors between different places, but also between different states of the public sphere in the contemporary city, in which change is a dominant characteristic. As in much of Willats earlier works, the models are based on concrete stories and interactions, and they offer a surface of reflection through which an audience, such as exhibition visitors and people encountering the work through its mediated forms, can relate to larger questions of social organization, engagement and self-empowerment.

Stephen Willats (born 1943) is living and working in London. Internationally recognized as a ground breaking practice, his work involves an interdisciplinary approach and theory from sociology, systems analysis, cybernetics, semiotics and philosophy. Important projects include Multiple Clothing (1965–1998), The West London Social Resource Project (1972), and the book Art and Social Function: Three Projects (1976). Willats has produced a number of extended projects working with residents of public housing estates across Europe including Pat Purdy and the Glue Sniffers’ Club (1981-2), The Kids are in the Street (1981-2) and Are You Good Enough for the Cha Cha Cha? (1982), about the wasteland outside the Avondale estate in West London, a skateboard park near a Brixton housing estate, and a London punk music club, respectively. For Brentford Towers (1985), Willats worked with residents to map the interiors of their homes, identifying objects holding personal significance. His works are exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. In 1965 Willats began editing and publishing Control Magazine. Willats was the Director of the Centre for Behavioural Art in London (1972-3).

Works of the exhibition are presented in Index’ exhibition space and the courtyards of Kungsbro Strand 17-21, and in locations throughout Stockholm: Husby Bibliotek, Husby Centrum, George Sko och Nyckelservice, Fleminggatan, FWD Reklambyrå, Kungsbro Strand, Kungsantik and Salong Ellis, Kungsholmsgatan, Moderna Museet, Skeppsholmen, and on LED screens, Drottninggatan and Birger Jarlsgatan.