Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish artist Matt Baker

Friday, 23 April 2010

the vision thing

 1. this is the first and only time that I will consciously use the term - visioning
 2. Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty (or the Observer Effect) states that the the act of observation will materially affect that which you are observing.

Heisenberg came to mind whilst I was a participant in the recent ‘City Games’ (an initiative aimed at capturing local opinion for the darfting of a new ‘City Vision’). Our team identified 7 people who were pretending not to watch - although presumably paid to do just that.

I am pleased to report that, as I have come to expect, things in Inverness have a habit of not conforming to the normal rules (a good friend of mine once compared the place to the ‘Northern Exposure’ TV show) and everyone got into the spirit of the occasion. I had a large degree of trepidation about the idea of random groups of local people having the chance to play Urban Designer with the city. In the end i do think many good things came from the day and a large degree of consensus was reached about the priorities for Inverness to concentrate on ....mostly focussing of how we could maximise the enviromental quality of the place with its extraordinary position in landscape coupled with a role as a regional capital.

For more info on the overall process see  here

I am not convinced though that the maximum benefit was derived from the opportunity of having all that potential for random interaction and goodwill gathered together in our room. The event was obviously designed by Architects/Planners and while it was fun for folk to experience ‘playing’ at being planner for the day, I do passionately believe in the idea of mixing local ‘random/creative’ input with external professional ‘perspective’. Had I been the external professional in this situation I would have rather gone away with nuggets of local intuition and understanding gleaned from exposing the gathering to situations which demanded that they really dug into their own personal perceptions and experience of the City (ie rather than amateur planning drawings). In this way the resultant ‘vision’ would have a greater chance of genuinely connecting with people’s understanding of their own environment - and therefore be useful to people.

I am saying this from the perspective of someone who for the past 4 years has been involved (with a rich and diverse group of collaborators) in creating a series of interactive and participative art events in Inverness with the aim of creating a space of creativity within which people can contribute to the evolution of their own environment. This process has gathered an extraordinary wealth of material by local people about their city - I have offered access to our archive to the team behind the City Vision and I hope they take up the offer to add this to their growing understanding of the place.

Brownian motion (named after the Scottish botanist Robert Brown) is the seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid

Sixties rock legend Jeep Solid plays in the burial ground of the Old High Kirk, Inverness; with a backdrop of video footage shot by artist Graeme Roger who followed Jeep’s life for 3 months. Jeep returned to his native Inverness in the mid Seventies where he continues to make music. 'Cape Reality' was part of the 'Imagining the Centre' temporary public artwork

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