Stephen Willats

Concerning Our Present Way of Living

  • StephenWillats-ConcerningOurPresentWayofLiving-1979-2014

Past Exhibition

Stephen Willats: Concerning Our Present Way of Living

04 March – 14 Sept 2014

“I view the world we live in as a multi-channel experience.”

British artist Stephen Willats (b.1943) richly complex works combine modular abstraction with pictures and texts that tell the life stories of our own neighbourhoods. Inspired by cybernetics and communication theory, Willats has deployed photography, architecture and abstraction to examine ‘the function and meaning of art in society’.

This display revisits an exhibition he made at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1979. The artist spent time with leather tanners, dockworkers and the residents of a public housing estate, capturing the life and times of communities who have long since dispersed. His ambitious project insists on the work of art as having ‘a dynamic, interactive social function’. Bringing together remarkable documents from a number of archives this display shows Willats as a pioneer in using art and technology as a trigger for social networks and self-organisation.

“For me… a work of art can itself constitute a model of human relationships.”


The Whitechapel Gallery archive exhibitions are generously supported by Catherine and Franck Petitgas.

Image Credit: One of the Display Boards from the Stephen Willats’ project work, Inside An Ocean, that took place on the Ocean Estate during the exhibition, Concerning Our Present Way of Living, Whitechapel Gallery, 1979.