The last question of my first public survey was
Out and About in Stoke-on-Trent, Where is your most favorite place to go?
I can’t say I was surprised by these results, they show that people like to get out of the city into a more natural state, which is arguably the opposite of what is currently available in city centres. These results suggest that our collective urge to return to a more natural state is strong in Stoke-on-Trent.
I believe that this is directly counter to the way our commercialised city centres make us feel about ourselves. Urban designer Iain Borden has said that “The risk of the city-as-shopping-mall is that public space becomes only for consumerism, that our bodies become passive, that we consume only by purchasing, and that political rights and critical thoughts are replaced by docile and accepting minds.” This opinion is certainly backed up by the results of this questionnaire so far.
So what are people getting from green spaces that they cannot find in their city/ town centres? I would suggest it is many things working on many levels.
• Unexpectedness of your surroundings
• Freedom from personal expectation; to walk a particular way or buy something, to be anywhere at a particular time, freedom from having to have a ‘purpose’ to be there.
• Easier social interaction- as we all know when you walk past someone on a country walk you say hello or smile at anyone coming past in the opposite direction. How often could you say that about the same situation in a city?
Being in nature also draws you closer to abstract positivity which can be incredibly inspiring like beauty, growth, simplicity, co-operation (between plants and animals) peace, memories of childhood and play. In essence it provides a departure from the drudgery of everyday practical concerns, an escape into a very personal space. Such as space for the town and city dweller feels like an incredible luxury, and one you don’t have to pay for.
So in conclusion, Action:Art could potentially focus on all the positive aspects of a country walk to create public artwork that aims to bring them into the public realm. Can this be achieved? Watch this space.by