Vision and Reality


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Stephen Willats

Softcover | 14.2 x 2 x 23.5 cm | 288 pp | 500+ b/w images

Uniformbooks | 2016 | 9781910010082

“All art is a product of society, of relationships between people in which it is quite clear that the most important element in the network between the artist and society is the audience. For without two people there can be no work of art.”

This book presents a wide selection of interviews and photographs from the collaborations between Willats and residents in the many housing estate projects he makes. The first-hand observations and individual opinions, from the past four decades, record a variety of attitudes and perceptions towards the physical reality of their surroundings.

Created outside of the norms and conventions of an object-based art world, the projects in this book, mainly on estates in and around London, but also in Bath, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Oxford, highlight the realities of everyday life in both tower blocks and low-rise planned housing. Willats’ work, based on open agreement, transforms peoples’ perceptions of a deterministic culture of objects and monuments, into the possibilities, and rich complexity, inherent in the community between people.

Reviews and articles

This is a rich, thought-provoking book, perhaps unique in both its specificity and breadth. - Municipal Dreams

I'd really recommend reading this book if you’re into the social history or art of postwar British council housing. - John Grindrod, Dirty Modern Scoundrel

The photographs show a dizzying range of interiors, many of which are probably now coming back into fashion, but the unpretentious framing doesn’t labour the question (we’re a long way from Martin Parr here). The views from the flats, of bushes, trees, towers and car parks are sometimes abstract, sometimes perfectly clear and readable. It’s a fascinating, page-turning book. - Owen Hatherley, ‘Utility or Ideology?’, Review 31

…a rare and essential book which records, respects and, above all, gives necessary context to people’s accounts of their own lives. - Lynsey Hanley, ‘Estates of the Nation’ The Times Literary Supplement, 7 October 2016


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