Parks + Art: a research, a collection

megan garrett-jones advice to park users

“Parks are ultimately an interplay – a conversation, if you will – between people and nature.”

Peter Harnik, Urban Green, Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities.

I love parks and I love art. Parks are public social green spaces. And mostly, you can move in multiple directions and do many things, and they enable civic and social play.

Travis Elborough Victoria Park Residency
Travis Elborough’s Games for May in Victoria Park Hackney

I’m very interested in the ways in which artistic process has happened in and with parks because I work both as an artist who has made transitory and temporary projects with public space and the people in them, and in the environment movement working to support friends of parks and environmental groups.

I’ve been collecting some examples as a focus of research (through networking, posting call outs etc) looking at this meeting point between the social urban space of the park and the social working space of the artist, and how that is realised for people, for the public. The list is far from complete (of course) – it’s partial but growing.

Here’s the dedicated page: Parks + Art collection.

St Pauli Park Fiction Hamburg
Designing St Pauli Park, Hamburg

I’ve spent many days absorbed by looking at these projects sent via artists and producers – the world wide web is glorious – from Malcolm Whittaker’s simple yet profoundly collectivising ‘My Best Friend‘ working and talking with dog walkers in a park in Australia, to Park Fiction documenting the creation of Gezi Park St Pauli in Hamburg, to Megan Garrett-Jones’ labour of love Advice to Park Users.

And Travis Elborough’s fascinating Games for May residency (May 2015) at Victoria Park, Hackney as part of the annual Chisenhale residency programme, brought me contact with Ken Worpole’s writing and blog The New English Landscape.  In Ken’s post about Sarah Pickstone’s recent book Park Notes about Regents park in London, he details an extract from an essay by Marina Warner which is part of the book:

Megan Garrett-Jones’ Advice to Park Users

“‘Sarah Pickstone speaks of the park as a realm on its own terms, neither a garden nor the countryside, neither a landscape nor a wilderness, but something in-between.’ It is this unique quality of city parks – one of the great achievements of municipal culture – which is so difficult to define, but so palpably felt by millions of people daily.”

It’s this ‘something in-between‘ that’s of interest, and seems to be the same territory that many of the makers and artists are looking for in the projects, objects or encounters they’ve made – an interplay, a conversation.

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