Individual commissions – I lost her near Fantasy Island..., Heather and Ivan Morison, Bristol

Theme: temporary event

I lost her near Fantasy Island. Life has not been the same, Heather and Ivan Morison, 2006. Photo: courtesy Kevin Clifford and Arts Council England

I lost her near Fantasy Island. Life has not been the same, Heather and Ivan Morison, 2006. Commissioned by Situations, University of the West of England Photo: courtesy Kevin Clifford and Arts Council England                      

Best practice in: creating a temporary event for a city centre public space by internationally recognised artists.

Summary:
This commission was created to coincide with the opening day of the British Art Show 2006 in Bristol. A series of temporary commissions were curated by different Bristol-based arts organisations, part of Bristol Visual Arts Consortium (BVAC), to re-enliven this touring exhibition’s final stage.  The research and commissioning organisation Situations (part of the University of the West of England, UWE), commissioned artists Heather and Ivan Morison to develop a work lasting just one day.

A jack-knifed lorry was positioned so that its load of 25,000 flowers spilled out onto a pedestrianised area in Bristol City Centre. It was both a visual spectacle and – as it turned out – a participatory event, as from 6pm hundreds of passers-by were allowed to take the flowers, so that they were gradually dispersed throughout the city.

Aims:
The aims were to

  • Engage local residents with the launch of a key national exhibition and its relation to Bristol’s public realm, giving a sense of ownership rather than alienation.
  • Encourage artistic innovation and excellence by developing an ambitious one-off commission working with internationally renowned artists from the British Art Show exhibition.
  • Draw widespread local, national and international attention to the exhibition opening and to Bristol.

Approach and Development:
Situations’ approach was to work closely with the artists to shape the idea through a series of conversations, rather than by a standalone brief. Situations then worked closely with Bristol City Council to realise the work, in particular the public spaces officer (the Council did not have a public art officer at the time).  The project was finally achieved through an event licensing agreement, allowing the Council to apply the same health, safety, licensing regulations, and other requirements to it as they would have for any event.

As part of the UWE, Situations were covered by public liability insurance. In addition, they worked closely with the Council to overcome any of their concerns, for example, making sure the event was timed so that it would not coincide with Friday night revellers, and hiring a stunt team to install the lorry so that the operation was subject to this team’s stringent standards.

The success of the work increased Bristol City Council’s enthusiasm for, and confidence in, staging temporary art events and also achieved unexpected results, for example, the work helped Bristol win Gold in the Southwest in Bloom awards, 2006 – part of Britain in Bloom.

“Bristol has a strong track record for public art commissioning and for the quality of its events – in many ways this project blurred that boundary and provided the public with an artwork that challenged their conceptions about public art.” Aldo Rinaldi, Senior Public Art Officer at Bristol City Council

Facts and Figures:
Key factors for success:

  • As a specialist commissioning organisation with experience of working with artists and curating art for the public realm, based in Bristol, and part of UWE, Situations already had a good working relationship with Bristol City Council and understood the importance of engaging with their objectives and procedures to achieve this ambitious commission.
  • Managing the risks by complying with Council procedures for a temporary event including the use of an event licensing agreement.
  • An open and flexible working relationship with the artists, who were given the space, time and curatorial support needed to allow the commission to be properly developed and realised.
  • The choice of a central location with a high footfall of both residents and tourists.  
  • A realistic budget that was managed by the commissioner.

Funding streams:

  • The budget was £12,000, managed by Situations.
  • £7000 came from money apportioned from an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts award. 
  • £5,000 was contributed by UWE from their own resources.

Contact:
Claire Doherty, Senior Research Fellow in Fine Art, University of the West of England
4th Floor, Bush House, 72 Prince Street, Bristol BS1 4QD.  Email: director@situations.org.uk

References:
The Situations website has further information on this commission and their work as a whole.