Open City: City centre sites in Bristol, 6 Jun – 3 Jul

Open City is a Bristol-based grouping of artists who create temporary non-gallery projects, with the intention of making art “more accessible to the wider public audience and to involve the public in a critical dialogue about the work”. On the evidence available, both artists and public still have some way to go. The latest Open City project involves nineteen artists and a performance group, and sites spread across the centre of Bristol. With the aid of an Open City brochure, I go looking for them.

            I first attempt to find Reflected Glory, a work by Peter Aplin and Sally Aplin, said to be in some lime trees in Bristol’s Queen Square. I search for a long time before I find the artists’ subtle interventions that aim to “focus attention on peculiarities in the growth” of said lime trees. Work such as this raises what I believe are vitally important questions: How is this work supposed to exist? Does it best exist for people in Bristol to stumble across? Or should we be made aware, through proper publicity, that art is happening around us?

            I ask these questions because I doubt that many of Bristol’s residents or visitors will be ware of work such as Reflected Glory. I ask a Queen Square traffic warden, who spends his entire days walking around the square checking tax discs and issuing parking tickets, if he is aware of it. He gives me the blankest of expressions and says “no”. On to College Green, in front of the Council House, where the Open City brochure tells me to look for Here be Unicorns (“large images on the grass”). Quite possibly the work has not been made because when I describe it to the security guard in the Council House foyer, he too gives me the blankest of looks...

The above extracts are from a review by Eddie Chambers, "Open City: City centre sites in Bristol, 6 Jun – 3 Jul.", an Artists Newsletter, August 1997: 23-24