[NetBehaviour] exh. Control. Stephen Willats. Work 1962–69, London, 23 Jan-30 Mar 2014

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Feb 4 15:48:33 CET 2014

Via Andreas Boeckmann


Stephen Willats. Work 1962–69

*23 January to 30 March 2014*

This is the first survey of work by Stephen Willats from the sixties. 
Willats (born and lives in London) was introduced to art as a teenage 
gallery assistant in 1958 and by 1962 was producing advanced artwork. He 
embraced the transdiscipli­n­arity of the time, juggling the roles of 
social scientist, engineer, designer and artist, and developed an art 
about social interaction, using models derived from cybernetics, the 
hybrid post-war science of communication.

As well as the clothing and furniture made in 1965 when he briefly 
described himself as a 'conceptual designer', Willats' earliest 
sculptural series of 'Manual Variables' is haptic and interactive. These 
will be shown alongside early issues of /Control/, the still-operating 
magazine he founded in the same period. Its title is a provocation, 
invoking the cybernetic idea that people can take control of their 
environments, thereby deflecting the controls of a dominant hierarchy.

In 1968 Willats made an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 
which he presented constructions involving movement and light – some 
wall-mounted, others large-scale environments – that were informed by 
his interest in contemporary theories: about probability and prediction, 
behavioural science, subliminal advertising, and colour in relation to 
motivation and learning. The display of these at Raven Row will be based 
on the darkened maze in which they were installed at Oxford, where they 
were proposed as experimental stimuli for 'states of consciousness'.

Willats' works on paper from this period elegantly combine cybernetic 
modelling, architectural graphics and constructivist geometries, and are 
consistent with his practice of today. However, he abandoned his dynamic 
constructions at the end of the sixties in pursuit of an art of social 
interaction beyond gallery and art object, for which he became 
well-known. This exhibition reconvenes this earlier work for the first time.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated publication, with texts 
by Antony Hudek, Emily Pethick, Christabel Stewart and Andrew Wilson. It 
is curated by Alex Sainsbury.

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
London E1 7LS
T +44 (0)20 7377 4300
info at ravenrow.org <mailto:info at ravenrow.org>
www.ravenrow.org <http://ravenrow.createsend1.com/t/r-l-pwpjd-fihkdkuhh-y/>

More information about the NetBehaviour mailing list