Situations was an arts organisation dedicated to producing and commissioning remarkable arts projects in the public realm and unconventional locations. Our work began with the site, situation, people, circumstance, history, or untold story of a place, taking us to many different cities, towns and villages across the UK and overseas.
We believe that artists (including writers, musicians, performers, and visual artists) are charismatic agents of change and we invested in and creatively supported their process of making. We sought out opportunities for them to connect directly with places and invited them to make new works, with us as their creative producers, and with the audience at the centre of how the idea unfolded.
As a leader in new thinking about site-specific and public art, Situations developed a commitment to sharing learning, gathering evidence and nurturing new skills in producing and engagement in order to improve the conditions for the production of new forms of public art. We did this through publications, events, lectures and workshops and by authoring new public art strategies, using what we learnt from our projects to shape more dynamic, relevant creative and cultural policies for arts commissioning internationally.
Situations began its story in 2002 as a public art commissioning programme embedded within the University of the West of England in Bristol. Founded by Claire Doherty, Situations grew from Claire’s sole curatorial endeavour to become an organisation recognised for the international reach and high quality of its work and for the distinctive and surprising ways in which it has engaged audiences. This is reflected in the award of the Paul Hamlyn Breakthrough Award for Outstanding Cultural Entrepreneurs in 2010. On 1 November 2012, with the support of the Breakthrough Award, Situations transferred out of the University and became an independent arts charity.
Over the 15 years of its programme, Situations tested and developed a series of new approaches to commissioning public art and the arts in the public realm. Our approach can be summarised by a series of principles which became known as the New Rules of Public Art.
1. It doesn’t have to look like public art.
2. It’s not forever.
3. Don’t make it for a community. Create one.
4. Build space for the unplanned.
5. Withdraw from the cultural arms race.
6. Demand more than fireworks.
7. Don’t embellish. Interrupt.
8. Share ownership freely, but authorship wisely.
9. Welcome outsiders.
10. Don’t waste time on definitions.
11. Suspend your disbelief.
12. Get lost.
You can read more about the New Rules here.
In pushing the limits of what public art could be, a common set of approaches reoccurred in our work, these can be summarised as:
- Playing with time as medium and structure (from the 24-hours of One Day Sculpture, through the durational Sanctum to the 100-year Future Library and our research project Locating the Producers);
- Unsettling place identity (Folkestone Digs, Nowhereisland, The Tale)
- Creating gathering space for temporary communities (Black Cloud, Sanctum, Nowhereisland, Loseter);
- Rethinking how we remember (Writ in Water, Refrain, The Jurors, Ruined)
- Creating opportunities for co-creation and participation (The Tale, Sanctum, Nowhereisland)
After 15 years, in 2017, on concluding The Tale in Torbay and Writ in Water with Mark Wallinger for Runnymede, the Situations programme was completed. Claire Doherty, founder Director, became Director of Arnolfini and our team took on new roles across Bristol and the UK. The Situations archive is held by Bristol Records Office and this website acts as a resource and digital archive of our work.
With thanks to our core team over the 15 years:
Rachael Baskeyfield, Carolyn Black, Georgina Bolton, Hannah Brady, Maria Carter, Rachel Cartwright, Megan Collier, Katie Daley-Yates, Claire Doherty, Tash Dummelow, Eloise Dunwell, Eleanor Fogg, Claire Feeley, Joon Lynn Goh, Kate Gordon, Owen Kimm, Laura Jeffrey, Michael Kelly, Rachel Kinchin, Rowan Lear, Ailsa McKay, Stuart Mitchell, Alison O’Neill, Paul O’Neill, Clare Parker, Michael Prior, Anna Rutherford, Claire Skelcey, Josie Spencer, Nathan Taylor and all our volunteers. Full lists of project specific teams are listed under each project where available.
And heartfelt thanks to our trustees
Lewis Biggs, Emma Blake Morsi, Paul Bonaventura, Edson Burton, Erica Crump, Sheila Healy, Miranda Jacobs, John Kieffer, Sejul Malde, Shonagh Manson, Esther O’Callaghan, Francesca Filippini Pinto, david Sadler, Caroline Sapsed, Anne Torreggiani, Molly Waiting and Martin White.