Modern Art Oxford
Stephen Willats

Since the early 1960s, the pioneering British conceptual artist Stephen Willats has seen his work as a social process, establishing an approach to art practice that has led him beyond the confines of studio, gallery, and institution and into social spaces outside the art context. Engaging different participants is central to his artistic work, redefining the relationships between artist and audience. This interactive approach has led him to realize projects in the actual settings where people’s lives are lived, focusing on creative and productive responses to social polemics. Modernist housing complexes of the postwar decades, the experimental underground club scene, or places on London’s urban periphery where teenagers find refuge from the pressures of their lives: these are the scenes where Willats explores creative behaviors that serve to recode society’s norms and conventions. Developing his participatory approach, he looked beyond art to find tools in other disciplines concerned with communication, looking at studies in the theory of semiotics, behavior and learning and then in cybernetics. [Migros Museum]