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Dreaming of Islands

Dreaming of Islands is a project that emerged from a survey of site-specific sculpture in and around Canary Wharf. The name for the s taken from Deleuze’s text ‘Desert Islands’ in which of imposed reality is described as continental, whereas individual freedom is the by-product of fragmentation and erosion or something expansive and emerging. The sketches and mock-ups produced during the tour would give rise to the ideas I had about "living" islands-the notion of a disembodied island/glacier metaphor that is both a vessel and a vehicule of memory in space and time. This idea take shape through the conception and production of the Biolith project. 


"Creating models for a new collection of context-based public artworks on The Isle of Dogs expanded my view of the possibilities for site-engaged practice.”



The prevalence of glass and steel as well as an overall aesthetic was discordant and completely out of sync with anything that might be described as a human the environment. An example of this was the raised fountain sculpture just behind the main exit of Canary Wharf Tube. The fountain with its overpowered water flow is raised above eye level at its point of entry from the exterior, making it appear more like a tumultuous an disempowering barrier than an area for contemplation or replenishment. I commented that we must have been witnessing the very dregs of bad English urban planning, to which a colleague of mine commented that it reminded him of something tacky he might have seen in America, at Disneyland for example.  I had to interrogate him as to whether he saw American design as inherently tacky. We both agreed however that the overall design of the area was sterile and artificial.


There was also the centaur’s ass which one encounters upon exiting the tube, interestingly enough. These and other ironies made it quite clear that the Financial District of London had great strides to make in terms of balancing money and sound regional artistic/design direction.



In order to address the these objectives I worked with two colleagues from the course who were also specifically interested in sculpture:

Aki (Landscape Architecture and site specific ecological sculpture) and and Yussef Ola-Agbo Envionmental Art, Organic Sculpture


Summary of team goals objectives: 

-Application of organic gardening through use of mulch and several in situ composters as well

-Japanese garden design elements that optimize limited space yet maximize implied natural order to mitigate native environment and human presence.

- Showcasing of organic sculpture

Applied ergonomic garden layout and design to facilitate navigation around the garden

-Organic gardening elements to include use of natural materials, meadow landscaping, composting

-Symbolism in the site specific sculpture as it references the human condition described by Deleuze


We examined the spaces and existing public sculpture and their relationship with the environment. Did the pieces relate or respon to the architecture, history

and politics of this landscape ? 



Critical factors:


1. Gilles Deleuze’s notion of imposed reality as continental, the by-product of fragmentation and erosion or something expansive and emerging ibid. Deleuze however does not attempt to define what art is:

2. The corporate environment of banking, largely ruled by speculative financial ventures and an environment that is in many ways artificial. The question is asked then, how does this differ from the public art that is manifestly present everywhere in the Canary Wharf Financial District.

-The [self] determination, collaborative research and informed artistic practice and design of the team.

In establishing a proposal, we had to carefully consider how individuality expression and overall unity of design might be achieved. The most logical solution was to create a sculpture park in which each member might showcase his strengths.




The initial plan was to create a collective piece. We assembled a model of a portion of the district measuring roughly 5,000 m2 that seemed like it could use further design planning and improvement. This ended up not fully corresponding to a unified vision of what each team member wished to do. Our ideas took tangential pathways and we ended up developing our own projects.

There were both external and internal factors contributing to this which included:

-Limited time to work out the design strengths of each student

-Differing perspectives in terms of artistic aesthetic criteria to include:


a) Permanent vs. temporary installation

b) lack of experience working as a team

c) Lack of clearer perspective on project: urban planning vs. public art as a piece-specific/contemporary arts practice Arts




Prior to this case study, I was mostly curious in creating a figurative sculpture but this project has reawakened my interest in creating site-specific work that engages the public. While others chose more socially engaged practice.

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