Cornford and Cross
Camelot 1996

Public open space enclosed by steel security fencing
For City Limits, curated by Godfrey Burke and Terry Shave
Albion Square, Stoke-on-Trent, England

 

For a group exhibition titled City limits, we chose to invite reflection and debate on the physical and social boundaries that often determine the patterns of city life — in this case by denying people access to some small, neglected fragments of public urban land.


Although the site we chose marks the entrance to Hanley town centre, it was defined only by three irregularly shaped patches of grass, flanked with sloping brickwork and cut off by traffic on either side. Rather than using a public art commission to superficially enhance the site, we decided to make an intervention that would engage with the very conception of ‘Public’.


By reinforcing the boundaries of these grass verges with an excessive display of authority in the form of steel security fencing we allowed the public to see but not to walk on the grass, raising the status of the land through its enclosure. In the context of the contemporary debate around security and access within town centres, Camelot explore the political notion of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ in which resources not under private ownership fall into neglect.

The project title, Camelot, refers to the phenomenally successful United Kingdom National Lottery, an institution on which many artistic and cultural projects are becoming increasingly dependent for money. The Lottery organisers’ choice of ‘Camelot’ evokes a mythical ‘golden age’ of English history, when the court of King Arthur established fair play in a feudal society through the code of chivalry. Perhaps the old idea that the accident of birth separates the prince from the pauper underlies today’s popular interest in the journey from rags to riches through the luck of the draw.

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