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Stephen Willats: Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs

Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs is a solo exhibition by artist Stephen Willats.

A pioneer of international conceptual art, Stephen Willats has spent six decades concentrating on ideas that today are ever-present in contemporary art: communication, social engagement, active spectatorship, and self-organisation.

During the early 1970s, while living in Nottingham and teaching at the Nottingham College of Art and Design (now Nottingham Trent University), Willats began several interactive projects exploring the relationship between artist and audience, and people in private and public space. Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs (1971/2) saw him work with four tennis clubs in the city – all socially, economically and physical separate – with the idea of uniting different social groups within a shared process.

This exhibition features artwork and archive materials from Social Resource Project for Tennis Clubs, on loan to Bonington Gallery from Nottingham City Museums & Galleries. Accompanying it is a new film and photographic series created during the artist’s recent visits to the original tennis clubs, and work produced during Willats’ early years in Nottingham that proved influential to his subsequent career.

Tennis Tournament

Join us for a restaging of the Tennis Tournament that happened at the conclusion of the original project, taking place on the launch day of this exhibition. Stephen will work with members of The Park Tennis Club to re-model the game of tennis based on their reasons for joining the club – using this site and experience as a simulation of a transformed society.

Header image credit: Stephen Willats, Tennis Super Girls, 1971/72

About the artist

For six decades, Stephen Willats (born in London in 1943) has concentrated on ideas that today are ever-present in contemporary art: communication, social engagement, active spectatorship and self-organisation, and has initiated many seminal multi-media art projects. He has situated his pioneering practice at the intersection between art and other disciplines such as cybernetics – the hybrid post-war science of communication – advertising, systems research, learning theory, communications theory and computer technology. In so doing, he has constructed and developed a collaborative, interactive and participatory practice grounded in the variables of social relationships, settings and physical realities. Rather than presenting visitors with icons of certainty he creates a random, complex environment which stimulates visitors to engage in their own creative process.

Willats has exhibited internationally and his work can be found in public collections held by Tate, Arts Council England and The Victoria and Albert Museum.