Primary/Bristol: St John's CE VC Primary School

Johann Arens, ‘100 Arches’, St John’s CE VC Primary School, Bristol, 2014. Photo © Max McClure, Courtesy of BCC and Arnolfini.


The redevelopment of St John’s CE VC Primary School is part of Bristol City Council’s Primary/Bristol series of artist commissions for primary schools commissioned as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme. As part of the development, London and Amsterdam based artist Johann Arens was commissioned by project curators Arnolfini in spring 2013 to develop an art work for the school working closely with pupils, teaching staff and Head Teacher Justin Hoye.


Johann Arens makes work that employs the language of both sculpture and film, setting in motion a direct comparison between visual culture and actual social space. He merges elements of a seemingly incongruous nature; domestic interiors alternate with stylised film props; institutional and scientific work environments transition into exhibition facilities and found memorabilia is reconstructed in computer-generated landscapes. The arrangements function as a systematic analysis of the mechanisms of spatial transformation, the rhetoric of museum display and audience behaviour at large. Through a body of work produced in different material and media, visual artefacts are framed in a non-hierarchical order; the object is not approached as a monument but as a public situation.

For the Primary Capital Programme Johann has developed '100 Arches', a permanent installation for the new and existing premises of St John’s Primary School. Based on the simple and universally recognized form of an arch, the project comprises of 100 artworks in different media and sizes conceived for and installed across the schools twin sites. Located within an educational setting the artist has sought to tap into the pupils’ inherently ‘open-minded’ approach to culture. Avoiding the use of a singular form or medium Arens installed sculptures, vitrine displays, architectural add-ons, scripted activities, photographs, wallpaper, scale models, conceptual gestures, books, murals, 3D prints and even a telephone line connecting pupils at both school sites.  Varying in scale and pitch, '100 Arches' is a playful intervention that shuns a singular formal approach in favor of a subtly connected collection of artworks whose inherent mutability provides pupils with a spring board for their own ideas.

This project has been made possible through funding from Bristol City Council as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme.

Johann Arens

Johann Arens (b. 1981, Germany), holds an MFA from Goldsmiths College, London, 2011 and is currently in residence at the British School in Rome. Recent solo presentations include ‘Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery’ at Paradise Row, London, 'Apple and Pear' at ASC Gallery, London and 'Effect Rating' in De Service Garage, Amsterdam, both 2012. Group exhibitions include 'Institute for Mathematical Sciences', Flat Time House, London, 2013; 'Members Show', Outpost, Norwich; 'Young London 2012', V22; 'A useful-looking useless object', Sierra Metro, Edinburgh; 'I'll explain you everythiinnngggg', Chert Berlin, 'New Contemporaries', ICA London, 2010 and 'No Soul For Sale' Festival at Tate Modern, 2010. Arens will be attending the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, in 2014.


Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading independent, contemporary arts organizations, and is the flagship art centre for the South West of England with 450,000 visitors annually. 2011 is the year of Arnolfini’s 50th anniversary. Since its foundation in 1961, Arnolfini has built an international reputation for commissioning and presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, always with a strong emphasis upon audience engagement. Many thousands of artists and performers have been involved with Arnolfini during this time, often gaining their first opportunity before going on to long-term success, and this wealth of creativity has been appreciated and enjoyed by consistently large audiences. Much of this groundbreaking work would not have been made or shown in Bristol and the South West region without the Arnolfini. Previous major solo exhibitions at Arnolfini have included: Marcel Broodthaers, Bridget Riley, Richard Long and Liam Gillick, as well as more recently Cosima von Bonin in 2011.

St John's CE VC Primary School

St. John’s school is a voluntary controlled Church of England Primary school. Their foundation church is All Saints on Pembroke Road, Clifton with members of the church forming members of the Governing body along with parents and staff. The school was founded in 1851 in buildings which remain standing at the top of Blackboy Hill. A second separate school, The Board School, was built in Anglesea Place in 1886 and the two schools eventually amalgamated at the turn of the century. The present building was completed in 1979 and incorporates part of the original Board school which provides accommodation for an After School Club, a music room and a custom built computer room. In September 2013 due to high demand of school places at St John’s Primary CE VC Primary School, St John’s Primary expanded and increased its intake from 45 pupils per year group to 75. All infant aged children are now taught on the new Lower Redland Road in what was formerly Redland Police Station. Junior children continue to be based at the larger, existing Worrall Road site.

  • Commissioner

    Bristol City Council

  • Produced by


  • Partners

    Primary Capital Programme (BCC, Skanska, LEP)

  • Supported by

    Bristol City Council