The disused Herman Miller Factory has been recently acquired by Bath Spa University and is set to become the new site of Bath School of Art and Design. Located within this, Open Plan presents an ambitious range of media from 49 artists and designers. The exhibition marks the start of a transformative process, providing a sensitive reflection on the city’s industrial history as well as demonstrating the capacity of art to provoke change. Exploring the concept of “tabula rasa,” which supposes the absence of preconceived notions and predetermined ambitions, the pieces on show activate the cavernous space, redefining the manufactured structure in order to create new, immediate experiences.
Curated by Gary Sangster, the event showcases more than 100 works from faculty members in a range of disciplinary fields. With over 65,000 sq. ft. to play with, the approach of interspersing different media with various conceptual approaches allows for new narratives to be formed. The artworks are presented in direct conversation with the archaeology of the site, creating a responsive and dynamic visual language. Groups develop naturally and somewhat accidently, a consequence of the culturally-loaded surroundings. Architectural elements also become inseparable from the carefully positioned pieces, with remnants of furniture, signage and debris simultaneously contextualising and rationalising the exhibits.
The development of this discursive setting enables divergent artistic intentions to be directly experienced by the audience, who are allowed to interact freely with both architecture and art. As Sangster explains: “Articulating a fluid relationship amongst the works is a product of aligning the arrangement and demarcation of works, and acknowledging similarities and differences through juxtaposition and dislocation. The point is to recognise the potential of form, image and content to evolve through reconfiguration and conditional alignments.”
Open Plan: Faculty Exhibition runs until 30 June at Bath School of Art and Design. Find out more: www.artdesign.bathspa.ac.uk
1. Gavin Turk, A Vision in Red, 2015. Photograph: Andy Keate