Neil Bromwich works collaboratively with Zoe Walker, Artist and Lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh University. Together, Walker and Bromwich use installations, social sculptures and public performances as tools to collectively question the limits of society and to imagine a better world, creating work that crosses between the gallery space and the public realm. Exploring the space between what exists and what is possible, they work in response to specific sites and communities, leading their audiences on transformative experiences that invite them to consider other ways of being.

Exploring art's potential to act as a catalyst for social and political transformation, Bromwich and Walker ask: is it possible for art to provide practical, aesthetic and poetic solutions to social political and environmental problems?

'Love Cannon' - Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, photograph Colin Gray

Celestial Radio

Celestial Radio, Sydney CREDIT- Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, Photographer - Wendell Levi Teodoro @ zeduce

‘Celestial Radio’ is a multi media interactive public sculpture: a 20-foot yacht covered in 50,000 inch-square mirror tiles, which broadcasts site-specific sound work to audiences wearing FM headsets.

In ‘Celestial Radio’, Walker and Bromwich build upon the legacy of site-specific work as a device through which to interrogate the environment. For example, as audience members walk along the shore, they are immersed in a rich cinematic narrative that mixes the physical experience of here and now with ideas and elements from past historical moments. Fragmenting and transmitting light and sound, the work both evokes and challenges audiences’ perceptions of place, transforming their understandings of the environment or context.

The work extends ‘Celestial Radio (1); Celestial Radio: How the Universe Sang itself into Being’, a project commissioned by COAST to interpret the Essex coastline with respect to its unique landscape, people, heritage and culture. During COAST, ‘Celestial Radio (1)’ was based at a site near Bradwell Power Station (where the pirate radio station Caroline had once moored) and broadcast music, ambient sounds and interviews with a range of local people on the subject of “power”. ‘Celestial Radio (2)’ aimed to examine how this immersive artwork might function as a catalyst to shift audiences’ perceptions of place within a diverse and contrasting range of landscapes, shifting the work away from its origins in pirate radio history and extending it into a peripatetic art project.

Celestial Radio, Sydney CREDIT- Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, Photographer - Wendell Levi Teodoro @ zeduce

Employing a participatory approach, Walker and Bromwich took site recordings, gathered archive and historical sound works, interviewed local specialist and enthusiasts and worked with local musicians and sound artists to develop each of the unique hour-long sound-works made for every location. Audiences were then given hand drawn maps and FM radio headsets and invited to follow a specific walk, such as a coastal path. Listening to the sound-work while absorbing the optical play of light on the mirrored surface of the boat, they entered into an immersive ‘cinematic’ radio experience that aimed to shift their perception of place.

The differing narratives broadcast at each site along the route, which included topics such as marine habitat, environment, religion, poetry, visionary thinking, alternative communities and utopian thinking, had a kaleidoscopic effect on narratives, time and space, conjuring up a space between the ‘real’ of an actual radio station, and the imagined.

Celestial Radio, Isle of Skye CREDIT- Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, photograph Mark Pinder

Connecting specialist research to specific landscapes, and engaging public audiences with current thinking about the environment, politics, economics, utopian histories, ‘Celestial Radio’ employed original research methods to blur fact and fiction, constructing an ‘other’ world. A meaningful extension to the parameters of public art, Bromwich and Walker’s re-imaging of the physical landscape through public participation uniquely fused sound and vision transmission into one.

Celestial radio has broadcast site-specific sound works at a number of diverse international sites including Thessaloniki Biennale, Isle of Skye, Folkestone, Margate, Whitstable, London, Jerusalem and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Panacea Casebook

‘Panacea Casebook’ is a live, multi-layered art event that interrogates orthodox perceptions of art and medicine as cure-alls for society’s ills.

A live performance that combined video documentation, presentation, puppetry, costumes and props, this cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional research project questioned notions of truth, faith and belief, and created debate at the forefront of socially engaged practice, particularly for those researching art and wellbeing in society.

Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, photograph Colin Gray/the Artists

Growing out of the critique surrounding the instrumentalisation of the arts and the increasing value placed on the perceived effect of art on public wellbeing, ‘Panacea Casebook’ was developed from an earlier large-scale project, ‘Panacea’. Here, the team ran a field trial using pharmaceutical drug tests systems to test the effect of art works on the wellbeing of audience members, exploring the qualitative and scientific assessment of art.

‘Panacea Casebook’ significantly extends this research by re-presenting ‘Panacea’s’ test results for critique in a live art performance. Developed over three stages, including a high-profile panel discussion at the ICA London, under the title ‘Can Art Make You Happy’ (with Nicolas Bourriaud, Sian Ede, Jane Wernick and Claire Doherty), and through a number of workshops, the project also incorporated original methodologies and approaches, bringing together genuine scientific research carried out on an artwork with fictionalised case studies, fake narratives, theatre and humor.

Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, photograph Colin Gray/the Artists

Using ‘real’ works as a starting point, six fictionalized case studies were composed by the artists and imagined as a cure for a specific ailment resulting from an ‘urban malaise’. These case studies were then “narrativised” in collaboration with the medical team, and presented by the artists. Becoming more extreme over the course of the performance, though they remained believable, the case studies were contrasted with genuine scientific research delivered by the puppet doctor, manipulated and orated by Dr Mark Down (a Clinical Pharmacologist who is also a skilled puppeteer). This slippage between fact and fiction created a space for audience members to question their faith in science and art, while a questionnaire (adapted from stage two pharmaceutical drugs trialing) given out before and after the event challenged audiences to directly engage with their own state of wellbeing.

Toying with the idea of a ‘faux’ anthropological methodology and blurring art, fiction, scientific method and poetic interpretation, ‘Panacea Casebook’ presented new and innovative forms through which to express a complex understanding of the recent instrumentalisation of art practice, and explored the extent to which we trust in art and medical science to solve the ills of society.

‘Panacea Casebook’ was exhibited at five high profile galleries across the UK, including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, CCA, Glasgow, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford and the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. In 2010 the work was presented at Tate Britain as part of Going Public, a program of live events exploring truth and fiction.

Artists Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich, photograph Colin Gray/the Artists

The Panacea Research Team are: Neil Bromwich, Dr Mark Down (Clinical Pharmacologist, Hammersmith Medicines Research and Puppeteer, Blind Summit Theatre), Zoe Walker (Artist, University of Edinburgh) and Michael Pinsky (Artist, University of East London) with additional support from Professor Adrian Renton (Director of Institute for Health and Human Development, University of East London).

Current Work

Currently Walker and Bromwich are developing a series of new works that continue their investigation into the hinterland between factual and fictional geographies as a tool to generate new models for society in the future.

In May they are presenting 'In the Absence of perfect information- a Game for Change' at NGCA Sunderland curated by Nathalie Levi as part of the Buying Time Series. For this project Walker and Bromwich are working with management consultant Mark Butcher to developing a board game that fuses ancient folklore and contemporary 'tools for change management'. The work researches ideas of societal change through play, and a series of games set within the gallery and public workshops will lead up to the exhibition.

During summer 2014 they will be presenting ‘Orcadia and other Stories’, a solo exhibition of Walker and Bromwich’s work at the Pier Art Centre, Orkney. The exhibition is part of a major survey of Scottish art organised by Glasgow Life and the National Galleries of Scotland entitled ‘Generation, 25 years of Contemporary Art in Scotland’ that will accompany the Glasgow Commonwealth Games of 2014. The exhibition will profile their public works made over the last five years, and in particular, the ways in which they engage audiences in re-visioning specific environments. The new commissioned work for ‘Orcadia’ is a participatory sculptural object from which a complex discourse will unfold combining folklore, archaeology and the emerging marine renewable technology industries effecting local life.

Other presentations of work in 2014 include:

  • Solo Exhibition, Marion De Canniere Galley, Antwerp in March 2014
  • Reclaimed-The Second Life of Sculpture, GI Glasgow International April 2014
  • Art Lending Library (with Market Gallery), UK Tour funded by ACE Strategic Touring Programme 2014-15

Further Information