Free For All Forever - Bristol City Council Commission, 2012

This commission was for a lighting work to be sited in two pedestrian subways on the edge of the Easton/St Paul's districts of Bristol. This is an interesting part of Bristol, with a high level of politically active groups based in the area; one of the problems that the council wanted to address in these subways was the constant graffiti and fly-posting for marches and events. Also in this area is a legal graffiti wall, at one end of the subways.

I was interested in these two groups, the graffiti artists and activists, which could arguably be identified as the primary user groups of these subways. I was also interested in the fact that the council had put up a temporary noticeboard between these subways, to advertise the proposed redevelopment of this area (the commission was part of a two mile long cycle route that was being redeveloped). Almost as soon as this notice board went up, the residents of the area removed the council notices and begun to use it as a notice board for fly-posting. If we can view this in terms of desire-lines for pedestrian routes, this highlighted a want and need for somewhere to legally house posters. So this was something I incorporated in to my work.

The work Free For All Forever draws on several different languages, visual and aural. The use of posters/signage is an ongoing interest of mine; subverting aesthetics we associate with one kind of site or message, allowing it to become something else. In doing so you can shift an audiences perspective on, both, the thing they are viewing and the suggested relationship with the original implied context. I am interested in the baggage that comes with our reading of any kind of signage, whether this be posters, road signs, flyers, badges, t-shirts, shop vinyls etc; people already have a relationship with the medium, which affects their immediate reading of the work.

The text used has a deliberate ambiguity; one reading of it suggesting that we are involved in a ‘free-for-all, forever,’ and another that ‘everything will be free, for everybody, forevermore’. This duality and ambiguity is important to this work; an acknowledgement that everything can and will be interpreted in any number of ways. On one hand the text offers an almost Utopian idea of never having to work or pay for anything ever again and, on the other, quite the opposite suggestion that we are in a permanent state of turmoil.

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