Going Home

Stephen Willats

Jean Paul had experienced a particularly irritating day and was glad to be pulling on his coat and exiting the office as the clock struck five. He could feel the denseness of the air hit him as he walked out onto the street and soon his eardrums were bombarded by the unintelligible mutterings of a million workers converging upon the same route. He joined the crowd, closing his senses to the mass movement and turned into Oxford Street, towards Bond Street Tube. He did not notice a man filming with a super 8 camera, as with bent head, he concentrated on not stepping on the heels of those in front. The mass entered the ticket hall and started to funnel through the barriers. As Jean Paul inserted his ticket he caught a sideways glance of someone else filming his movements, but thought nothing of it as the crowds filtered into single file to descend via the escalator. On his journey to the platform Jean Paul felt the presence of cameras at every turn, recording his every movement, but when he scanned the crowd all he felt was a terrible nausea, and his being was sucked back into the mass exodus home.

Going Home is a work that Stephen Willats made in 1997, which involved eight artists simultaneously boarding a train at Bond Street, armed with cine cameras. Each was asked by Willats to focus on and record a particular aspect of the journey such as people and objects, the spaces between people or signs. The one and only time this work was shown at Victoria Miro Gallery in 1997, it consisted of film stills from the eight cine films set in grids, accompanied by various philosophical propositions in the manner, for example, of Plato or Descartes which addressed the nature of reality. For MOT Stephen has revisited the work and changed it by including the eight films and the audio recordings. Going Home both reproduces the experience of commuter journeys in the city--anonymity, crowds, alienation, noise (both aural and visual)--and at the same time provides a way of seeking an understanding of this typical experience. By returning to the work in a new millennium Willats shows us how these archived moments are not only linked to the philosophical concerns of the 20th Century, but also how they map our future. This work is an important development in questioning authorship and Willats’ use of a group of artists to collectively make the work is vital in his notion of creating informal networks. In hindsight we can now see how important Willats has been, not only as one of Britain’s leading conceptual artists, but also for his role in the study of cybernetics, information theory, systems analysis, and semiotics that have helped to build the networks that run our lives in the 21st Century.

This is Chapter 2 of AN EXHIBITION IN 3 CHAPTERS, in which three artists were asked to present a single work as a solo exhibition, author a small publication and initiate the loan of a Library collection to be housed at MOT. Chapter 2 is by Stephen Willats and he has requested that MOT loans a collection of concrete poetry, held at Chelsea College of Art special collections. To coincide with the exhibition MOT International will be publishing a brand new book by Stephen Willats.

Chapter 1 was by Matthew Thompson and the final chapter is by Amanda Beech (16 December – 27 January). Publications are available for each chapter. An Exhibition in Three Chapters is curated by Chris Hammond.


Thanks to Victoria Miro & Chelsea College of Art & Design Library, University of the Arts, London