2021 - 2021
Bristol City Council is currently in the process of completing a number of new schools in the City under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Included in this series is Knowle DGE Learning Centre, a new school located in Knowle in South Bristol.
As part of the development Bristol City Council commissioned artists Bryan and Laura Davies to create a new artwork for the school gardens, working closely with the school development team, comprising the school head, staff, pupils, contractor, project architect and other stakeholders.
Knowle DGE is a unique context in which to create a piece of artwork, being a brand new school specifically designed for ‘inspiring young people with moderate learning, social and emotional behavioural difficulties’. Working closely with the children, Bryan and Laura developed an initial workshop with students at the school to examine ideas around public art and the various forms it can take. The workshop involved the construction of a large ‘shelter’ like structure, made with cardboard, and tape based on smaller models made by the students. The shelter was quickly occupied by students, and with it, an impromptu set of laws emerged regarding ownership, access to the space and those who were (or were not) permitted to enter, which included a sit in by students and no access to teaching staff.
Based on the initial workshop the artists took forward an idea for an art work based on a key principle; a special space for students and a place for school kids to sit outside of their building, to chat amongst themselves or with staff; an oasis from the school environment and everyday tensions. Through several design revisions to make a design that would permit users to be both inside and outside, a final design was agreed with multiple entry points, defining a boundary but not creating a barrier or barricade.
The end result is a playful structure situated under a mature tree in the school grounds. ‘The Out/In Space’ is an abstract form loosely (and incidentally) based around a face, drawn from different cultural references, ranging from Mickey Mouse (ears), to Homer Simpson (eyes) and taking in motifs from a Corbusier building along the way. The work is an eclectic mix; a skeletal structure or ‘ship’ made up of cultural references which has been left like a relic in the controlled landscape of the school, where it will used by a new generation to think through and discuss their issues, problems and bright futures.