The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) is commissioning a public art programme that supports the second phase of a £25m redevelopment of their Bower Ashton site in south west Bristol. Danish artists’ group Superflex have been appointed to produce concept designs for the central new courtyard at the heart of Bower Ashton, between the new and old University buildings. Following completion of the courtyard, UWE will commission an annual series of temporary artworks in the finished courtyard from UWE graduates in creative disciplines.
Superflex was founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen. They describe their projects as ‘Tools’ or proposals that invite people to participate in and communicate the development of experimental models that alter the economic production conditions. Often their projects are related to economic forces, democratic production conditions and self-organisation. Superflex’s work is shot through with the humour and the politics of public space.
In 2011 they worked with BIG architects (Bjarke Ingels, designers of the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion) on Superkilen, a major new urban park in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, where lamp posts, manhole covers, fountains and seats have been gathered from more than 50 different countries. There are more than 100 different objects in the park all with a special history, including an elephant slide from Chernobyl and an Ethiopian bench from the site where the first humans walked the earth. Superflex were commissioned by Liverpool Biennial in 2012, and Emscherkunst Triennial in Germany in 2016.
Bower Ashton is the home of the University’s Departments of Art and Design, and Film and Journalism which both sit within the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education. Bower Ashton is one of four sites that form the University’s ‘City Campus’ alongside Arnolfini, Spike Island and Watershed, arts venues that share space with the University. Bower Ashton hosts key University facilities including the Library and creative production spaces for film, photography, ceramics, woodwork and metalwork alongside production space for drama, dance, fashion and journalism.
Suzanne Heath has been commissioned to draft the Public Art Plan and lead the development of the public art programme. The project involves close liaision with the University’s Capital Projects team, the wider project delivery team including the appointed architects and planning consultants and ongoing communication with Bristol City Council including their Senior Public Art Officer. Designs for the courtyard are expected to be developed during 2016-17, with construction coming forward in 2019, subject to planning permissions being granted.