In 2008-2009 I curated Open Space, a programme of four new temporary art projects in Harlow, Colchester and Basildon by Matt Cook, Gordon Flemons, Miranda Sharp, Damien Robinson & Stuart Bowditch. The artists were all either based in Essex, or had a strong connection with Essex. They were each asked to reveal the spirit of place through interaction with local individuals and groups in these three very different Essex towns.

Their projects directly involved over four hundred and fifty local individuals in the research and making of four new works that include performance, installation, sculpture, video, photography and digital animation.

Open Space encouraged local audiences to experience their own town and contemporary art in a very physical way. Matt Cook devised a portable largescale interactive game and series of walks in different neighbourhoods of Harlow that resulted in two performances of Play Harlow! Gordon Flemons’ Making Tracks – Performing Place transformed the daily journeys of four communities in Colchester into 3-d animations from GPS tracking lines. The animations were then viewed online and downloaded to mobile phones in Colchester and beyond. Miranda Sharp set up a mobile manicure booth in community centres in Basildon to initiate intimate conversations about the town’s spirit of place. Her film I Love Basildon was then premiered in Basildon Market and has since been shown internationally. Damien Robinson & Stuart Bowditch collected rare archive and everyday recorded sounds from residents across the county to evoke new sound tracks for Basildon, Harlow, Colchester and Chelmsford. Their Vibe Cube travelled to different locations across the county so that the sounds and vibrations could be experienced through hearing and touch.

Open Space was part of Genius Loci, a major three-year public art project developed and funded by Essex County Council that involved over fourteen public art projects across the County. Open Space was project managed by Commissions East.

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Photo credits: Making Tracks – Performing Place (Gordon Flemons, Martin Figura); Vibe Cube (Stuart Bowditch); I Love Basildon (Douglas Atfield); Play Harlow (Martin Figura)