About the Artist
From the early 1960s until today, Stephen Willats has situated his pioneering practice at the intersection between art and other disciplines such as cybernetics, advertising systems research, learning theory, communications theory and computer technology. In so doing, he has constructed and developed a collaborative, interactive and participatory practice grounded in the variables of social relationships, settings and physical realities.
An exclusive preview of a new film by Stephen Willats, ahead of his major exhibition Human Right at Mima, Middelsbrough (4 March – 4 June 2017). Shot in Middlesbrough, Going Round a Corner is one of a series that makes reference to the cybernetic concept of the strange attractor. The films will be shown in shop windows linking Mima with an off-site section of the exhibition at the Forbes Building in the town. Human Right surveys Willats’ practice from the late 1970s to the present day. The exhibition examines the relationship between personal narratives and social conditions and includes a newly commissioned project that, six months in the making, features four local people who have transformed their own situation and that of the community around them.
For six decades, Willats has concentrated on ideas that today are ever-present in contemporary art: communication, social engagement, active spectatorship, and self-organisation, and has initiated many seminal multi-media art projects everywhere from tennis clubs and public galleries to inner city housing estates. Outside of the norms and conventions of an object-based art world, Willats has developed work which reacts against what he sees as the historical determinism within art. Rather than presenting visitors with icons of certainty he creates a random, complex environment which stimulates visitors to engage in their own creative process rather than merely submitting to passive observation.