Art of Common Space

Art of Common Space logoaocsmontage

The Art of Common Space, one of the major projects produced by Haring Woods at Gunpowder Park began as an interdisciplinary workshop co-curated by Woods and international artist and theatre director Robert Wilson at Wilson’s Watermill Center in Long Island, New York, in July 2005. The following summer, 17 individuals from 7 countries – all leading creative practitioners working in the arts and sciences came together for the first time in Gunpowder Park to respond to the landscape as source material for a new work. Co-curated by Woods and Wilson and produced by the Gunpowder Park team, these workshops kickstarted the process which developed into The Art of Common Space, a five-year programme of commissions, events and an international online network which aimed to generate new thinking and influence the development of our common spaces through creative exploration.

Drawing on the historic term ‘the commons’, The Art of Common Space is an evolving initiative that looks at the basic premise of ‘public’ space and questions the current existence of a space which we can call ‘common’ – an essential space that through its use, facilitates the celebration and bringing together of individuals from the diverse cultures that constitute our modern society.

The Art of Common Space provided unique opportunities for artists, creative professionals and public realm specialists to explore new ideas for creative public realm development by considering the use and reality of our common and public spaces, as both physical and social sites.

The first phase of the programme between 2008 and 2009 was delivered through four main strands: Dialogues, Experience, Mapping and Research & Development.  The programme commissioned new work by artists Simon Faithfull, Rob Davis and Usman Haque, Pilot Publishing and Proboscis to explore the common space in our 21st Century multicultural society through experimental site specific projects at Gunpowder Park; and in collaboration with New York based organisations CivWorld and Demos, The Art of Common Space has produced a series of dialogues with international cultural, political and religious leaders.

Download Art of Common Space poster

Download the Gunpowder Park / Robert Wilson Workbook here



0°00 Navigation by artist Simon Faithfull, is a film published in extracts online which records Faithfull’s physical journey along the Meridian line. Negotiating all obstacles and individuals encountered as he attempts to cross private property, the M25 and Gunpowder Park, Faithfull’s path was recorded by a single camera as a slapstick film of one man’s epic journey. 0°00 Navigation not only explored the historical and imperial politics of the common construct of time, but will inevitably become a survey of all types of spaces that constitute our land. The final completed version of the film was premiered at Gunpowder Park in March 2009.

Energy CafeThe Energy Cafe at the Field Station by Amy Plant + Ella Gibbs (Pilot Publishing) reinvigorated Gunpowder Park with a feeling of the original ‘commons’ where land was used as a resource for all. The construction of the Energy Café, which began in Autumn 2008, turned normal planning procedures on its head, and developed organically out of necessity, through people’s involvement from the local area. Pilot Publishing worked with ecologists, permaculture specialists and the local community to harvest wild food from Gunpowder Park and source farm or home-grown produce within a five mile radius.

being_in_common_responsesBeing in Common was a project by Proboscis which aims to enable people to extend and alter their experiences and understanding of ‘common space’. Part one was an exploration of what ‘common space’ means to a range of people from both UK and abroad. A guiding principle of the project will be to explore senses of kinship and belonging to common spaces as well as the senses of property and ownership. Our choice of participants will allow responses on common space that may consider and include the marketplace and shopping centre as well as air, water and radio space, and the park or ‘wilderness’. This may open up thinking on the ways in which spaces are or are not ‘common’ and the formal and informal mediation, regulation and control of them. Part two was the design and creation of a series of artistic responses to the results of the explorations – a ‘Catalogue of Ideas’ that will include both 2D and 3D works for temporary inclusion in the Park itself that can be directly experienced by visitors.

 Through a series of ‘Cultural Probes’ where international participants from a range of disciplines and cultures are asked to explore their notion of ‘common’ both conceptually and physically. Proboscis will use this material to inspire the design and creation of a series of artistic responses – a ‘Catalogue of Ideas’ with 2D and 3D works sited in Gunpowder Park for visitors to experience. These interventions may include physical objects and participatory, collaborative or interactive elements as well as drawings, photographs and sketches, video and online publications, and a series of ‘traces’ such as signs, sounds, walks or objects within Gunpowder Park for visitors to encounter and /or collect.  Exploration Packs were sent to participants around the world to explore what ‘common space’ means.

siphonimages3The Siphonophiora project used small reactive devices situated in one of Gunpowder Parks lakes to record and observe environmental data. Borrowing its name from a class of marine invertebrates, Siphonophora is an interactive research project by Rob Davis and Usman Haque. The small reactive devices tracked light, temperature, pH levels and other pond life activity, feeding this information live onto, a website which collects environmental data worldwide and which will compare this information with other natural sites all over the world. The small collection of devices also sent information via infrared to small devices installed in a large bird hide that overlooks the lake;  by plugging in your own small headphone sockets you could listen to the sound of the water.



Art of Common Space / Interdependence Day Dialogue at the Design Museum
Redefining Common Space through Art, Architecture, and Design

May 28-29, 2008, Design Museum + Gunpowder ParkAoCS Dialogues

Produced with leading American political theorist Dr. Benjamin Barber and his not for profit organisation CivWorld, USA, this intensive two day discussion hosted by the Design Museum, London and Gunpowder Park, brought together cultural, political and religious leaders, creative practitioners, policymakers and entrepreneurs who through their discussions aimed to challenge and progress our individual and collective thoughts, and influence the future delivery and development of our common, shared and public spaces.

Andre Dekker (Observatorium) Guy Guypens (KaaiTheatre, Brussels), Wilbur Woods, (NYC Mayors Office) Bernd Scherer (Director of Haus der Kulturen der Welt),
Rob Le Frenais (Arts Catalyst), Deyan Sudjic (Director, Design Museum), Martin Best (musician, author), Tony Beckwith (Gunpowder Park, Orlagh Woods (arts administrator), Benjamin Barber (political theorist, author), Eileen Haring Woods (Gunpowder Park), Michael Woods (Gunpowder Park).

 Parked Art: Designing Art For Common Space held at The Design Museum, London

 July 18, 2008, Design Museum, London


Parked Art was a one-day discussion forum exploring the possibilities for temporary public art projects, the relationship between art and architecture, and the social and environmental value that art can create for public spaces. It generated inclusive dialogue and discussion from an interdisciplinary audience who share the responsibilities for shaping our public realm as physical and social spaces. Speakers and audience included artists; curators and commissioners; local authority officers from parks & green spaces, culture & arts, and planning & regeneration; biodiversity specialists and ecologists; anthropologists; students; funders; the press & media.

Parked Art was chaired by Fred Manson OBE, Associate Director of Thomas Heatherwick Studio, and an expert in urban regeneration known for his rigorous and challenging views on the cultural, social and economic impact art can bring to public spaces. Speakers included Emma Underhill, UP Projects Director and Curator of Portavilion, Amanda Smethurst, Arts Service Manager Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Nick Biddle, Head of Regents Park, Louise Trodden, Head of Art in the Open, artist and architect collective publicworks, Jes Fernie, writer and curator, Tony Beckwith, Creative Development Director for Gunpowder Park and Tracey McNulty, Arts and Culture Development for Barking and Dagenham.

Parked Art was produced by Haring Woods Studio and UP Projects in partnership with the Design Museum and The Art of Common Space project.

Interdependence Day, CivWorld Brussels,  September 9-12 2008

AoCS IDAYInterdependence Day was an international initiative developed by CivWorld and Demos, USA which aimed to raise awareness of the interdependent character of global society and foster transnational and interdependent solutions to global challenges.  As an annual event led by political theorist Dr. Benjamin Barber, the 2008 Interdependence Day was co-hosted by the Kaai Theatre and the European Parliament, Brussels and featured a dialogue, chaired by Eileen Woods on The Art of Common Space programme and the potential art, architecture and design have to deliver truly common and democratic spaces.

‘Gazebo TV’ at the Hackney Wick Festival, by The People Speak. September 27, 2008. Eastway, London

gazebotvclose400Artist’s collective The People Speak presented “Gazebo TV”, a television studio in a tent in September 2008. Renowned for being able to get to the heart of what people really think by instigating intensive discussions, The People Speak investigated the current affairs of the area throughout Hackney Wick Festival and presented a live video of the discussions as they happened. This Dialogue formed a part of The Hackney Wick Festival that took place on the Village Green and also included open days at local artist studios and community venues. Artist and Architect studio publicworks also developed work around the theme of local produce, working with local bands and school children on a series of performances, and with other artists on a number of stalls for the fete.

Mark Gwynne Jones

Whose Common Now: A series of site specific performances by poet and performer Mark Gwynne Jones
September 6, 2008 Holland Park, Primrose Hill, Potters Fields Park, London

In collaboration with Portavilion produced by UP Projects, LANS commissioned a series of site specific performances that took place in and around the temporary ‘Portavilion’ structures designed by internationally acclaimed artists Dan Graham, Toby Patterson, Monika Sosnowska and Annika Eriksson in four of London’s most used and celebrated Parks. This performative event by Mark Gwynne Jones explored the nature of our common spaces as places to reflect and even daydream.

 “A common space instantly puts you in a different frame of mind,” says Mark Gwynne Jones. ”The best parks give us a sense of space, time to reflect, have fun, laze and daydream and how they achieve this is something I would like to explore. I think the works of art provide us with an opportunity to question what we mean by common space. Is a park just a place to kick back and relax or does it serve a more important social function? Why do we have common space? Can a place be common in a society of many cultures?”