Bristol Grammar School

Johanna Billing, I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm, 2009 HD 13'29'' loop. Courtesy of the artist.


In September 2016 Bristol Grammar School (also known as BGS) opened an impressive new Performing Arts Centre designed by AWW architects at its Clifton site. The building provides the school and the Bristol community with exceptional facilities including a 250 seater theatre space, dance studio, drama studio, music auditorium, teaching rooms and box office. As part of this development a Public Art Plan was submitted by Josephine Lanyon and agreed by Bristol City Council. Johanna Billing has now been commissioned to create a new film that will use performance to engage the students with a range of artistic disciplines.


Bristol City Council was delighted to support Bristol Grammar School’s ambitions to produce a moving image commission as part of its’ Performing Arts Centre development. Josephine Lanyon argued in the Public Art Plan that artists’ films can be flexible and collaborative in approach and involve non-professional people working alongside experienced camera operators and sound engineers on a production.

The plan commenced with Lanyon spending time in the school and the internal board members being introduced to artists’ films, through an off-site visit and presentations of artists work. The external advisors then contributed their knowledge of commissioning, collecting and programming. The Project Board were presented with six artists work and honed the artist’s brief to invite proposals that not only reflected disciplines such as dance, music and performance but also looked to universal cultural influences outside its walls. Three artists were then invited to visit the school and develop full submissions. Johanna Billing has now been appointed to pursue a project that takes its inspirations from the teaching methodologies of the Black Mountain College in the USA, an experimental art school near Asheville, North Carolina

Billing will take students back to a performance produced in 1952 involving a diversity of practice from Merce Cunningham’s dancing to Robert Rauschenberg’s painting. The final film will incorporate a re-enactment of a real historical event and has the potential for imagination and freedom in production, collaboration, learning and performing. The project involves an interdisciplinary approach, fusing documentary and the staged and working with new music composition, choreography, theatre, art, film and poetry to examine what it means to be experimental in the visual arts today.

Commenting on the project, artist Jonanna Billing stated:

“Pedagogy and learning situations are key to my practice, both as an artist and as teacher. More and more, the context for my work has become the public realm, so the idea to possibly work on a public project – within an educational context is for me very interesting in relation to where I position myself right now. My work often revolves around the idea of exploring the private and the public, communicating through people involved in ‘interior and exterior’ activities - in and around buildings or often institutions. The setup, with the public potential and aims of the Performing Arts Centre, and with its location within the more private educational setting with its everyday activities taking place within the more closed walls of the school, makes it a very special and challenging situation to work in”.

The project will completed during 2018 and launched to the public, further info will be released during 2018.

Johanna Billing

Johanna Billing lives and works in Stockholm and divides her time between working on films and public commissions. Much of her work involves a participatory element and incorporates performance, sound, music and choreography. Billing teaches at Konstfack, International College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm. Billing is currently working with the Edinburgh Sculptural Workshop on a new film commission, the Public Art Agency, Sweden on Art is Happening and exhibiting at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Dusseldorf until 10 June 2018. Further exhibitions include House of Impressions Wandering With Troubadours at The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow (2017), Labour Relation, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum (2017) and I’m Lost without Your Rhythm, which toured to Camden Arts Centre, Modern Art Oxford and Arnolfini, Bristol in the UK (2009-2010). Billing has also participated in survey shows such as 4th Auckland Triennial, Last Ride in a Hot Balloon, Auckland (2010); Documenta 12, Kassel (2007); Belief, Singapore Biennale (2006); 9th Istanbul Biennial; 1st Moscow Biennale (2005); 50th Venice Biennale (2003). From 1998 until 2010 Johanna ran the Make it Happen record label, publishing music and arranging live performances.

Project Curator/Producer: Josephine Lanyon

“I am happiest in my work when I can develop projects with artists over a period of time as this enables me to nurture the ideas, build up a deep knowledge of the work and produce initiatives that stand the test of time. BGS offers outstanding facilities and Johanna is an excellent artist so I hope we can work together on a process that is meaningful for the students and staff and develop a work that has substantial public benefit.”

Josephine Lanyon is a curator, writer and producer based in Bristol. She is currently working on an artists Film and Video Development Plan with Somerset Art Works and Somerset Film which will commence with a touring film programme of works by Adam Chodzko, Luke Fowler, Sarah Miles and Ben Rivers. In 2016 Lanyon curated Daphne Wright: Emotional Archaeology for Arnolfini, Bristol, National Trust, Tyntesfield and RHA, Dublin. In 2012 she completed a consultation document for the Bristol City Council Public Art Office entitled Moving Images: Artists film productions that engage people and place examining just over a decade of film projects that had had a major impact on people and places in the UK and USA. This research had an impact on the pre-planning of the BGS initiative. She was the Director of Picture This in Bristol for ten years up until 2009 and produced works such as Marcus Coates, Dawn Chorus and Rosalind Nashashibi, Bachelor Machines. She is also Co-Director of the Art Writers Group.


  • Commissioner

    Bristol Grammar School

  • Produced by

    Josephine Lanyon

  • Partners

    AWW architects, Johanna Billing, Bristol City Council

  • Supported by

    Bristol Grammar School