Press Release May 2017
16th May, 2017

Announcing We The People Are The Work, a major visual arts project taking place in the South West this Autumn (22 September - 18 November 2017) which will explore ideas of power, protest and the public. 

We The People Are The Work

22 September - 18 November 2017

We The People Are The Work
is a major visual arts project in Plymouth that will explore ideas of power, protest and the public. The project will see five internationally acclaimed artists from the UK, Canada, France and Mexico journey to Plymouth to create new artworks, give talks and lead workshops, inspired by the city’s rich heritage, its people, and their aspirations for the future. From recent world-wide events including Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, to the changes being experienced by communities in Plymouth on a more local scale, the exhibition will look at the shared experiences and differences that shape our society. 

The exhibition for We The People Are The Work will take place from Friday 22 September - Saturday 18 November 2017 at five venues around the city: The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, The Council House at Plymouth City Council, KARST, Peninsula Arts at the University of Plymouth and Plymouth Arts Centre.

Presented by Plymouth Visual Arts Programming Group, We The People Are The Work is the first major commissioning project of Horizon, a collaborative two-year programme of contemporary visual art which will strengthen and build upon Plymouth’s dynamic arts scene, promoting the city as an exciting contemporary art destination. Supported by Arts Council England's 'Ambition for Excellence’ funding, the Horizon programme will develop four major arts events in the city, support a talent development programme for artists and visual art producers, and enable communities to commission artworks. Led by Plymouth Culture, Horizon is a partnership between Plymouth College of Art, the University of Plymouth, Plymouth Arts Centre, KARST, Plymouth City Council’s Arts and Heritage Service and Visual Arts Plymouth.

Each of the five high profile contemporary artists invited to take part in We The People Are The Work have been paired with a specific venue that aligns with the artist’s practice. Each artist will develop works that involve the public in some way - either in an aspect of their research, development, production or realisation.

The artists commissioned to take part include Claire Fontaine, a Paris based collective working in neon, video, sculpture, painting and text. Also taking part is British contemporary artist Peter Liversidge, whose recent exhibitions include Tate Modern and the Whitechapel Gallery. We The People Are The Work will be Mexican artist Antonio Vega Macotela’s first major project in the UK, and he is also taking part in this year’s Documenta. Ciara Phillips is a Canadian born artist who lives and works in Glasgow, and has just been announced as an artist in the Sydney Biennial. Penzance born artist Matt Stokes, who has exhibited at galleries all over the world, immerses himself in the social structures of the scene he is working with, which then result in films, installations and event-based works.

We The People Are The Work is curated by Simon Morrissey, who is internationally renowned for his distinctive approach of involving audiences in the development of permanent and temporary artworks. Morrissey is the director of Foreground, and he has curated exhibitions for leading galleries and agencies including The British Council; the Arnolfini in Bristol; Chapter in Cardiff and Hauser & Wirth Somerset amongst many others. As part of the project, Morrissey will lead a free walking tour between the five venues, and give lectures at Plymouth College of Art and the University of Plymouth.  

Morrissey said, “We The People Are The Work explores the ways in which an increasing number of artists are interested in involving the public in the creation or realisation of artworks, the different ways they work with the public and why artists are drawn to work with ordinary people to bring artworks to life.

“The exhibition is primarily concerned with ideas of articulation and power – how do we as individuals, as the public, get our voices heard within or against the structures of power that govern our lives and claim to speak for us, the people? Plymouth is a city undergoing considerable change and is a fascinating landscape within which to explore these ideas in the current political climate. The artists in the exhibition will both work with people in Plymouth to develop the ideas for the exhibition and develop works where the participation of the public is essential to bringing the artists ideas to life. In this way the voices of the people of Plymouth will, in a very significant way, be the work.”

We The People Are The Work will launch to coincide with Plymouth Art Weekender (22 - 24 September 2017), and will include events, talks and workshops, and film screenings, inviting communities to engage creatively as part of this cross-city project. The film programme will include a special screening of Colin Gregg and Hugh Stoddart’s 1982 film Remembrance.  Shot entirely on location in and around Plymouth, this British independent film featured large numbers of local people and young men in the Royal Navy as extras, alongside Timothy Spall and Gary Oldman in their first significant roles. Expanding out from the core venues, the project will also “infiltrate” the city’s outdoor video screens, advertising sites and transport networks, creating opportunities for connection and engagement across the whole of Plymouth.

With an inclusive approach to learning for all ages, We The People Are The Work will be embedded into existing activity at all five venues involved, including Plymouth College of Art’s Saturday Arts Club for 9 to 11-year-olds, as well as adult masterclasses and contextual studies lectures at the college. Activities will also include Bringing In Baby exhibition tours and Creative Play sessions for under 5s at Plymouth Arts Centre, Plain Speaking gallery tours by Take A Part’s Crazy Glue group which will be free to the public, and Student Gallery Nights run by students for students with wine, workshops and exclusive exhibition viewings.