People’s Bureau were invited to contribute to Milton Keynes of the Mind: What does it mean to have a whole new town in mind? For the festival, we planned a screening of Unearthing Elephant, following a recent showing at the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and Tate Exchange. We also planned to lead an activity throughout the day; ‘Shopping for an Imaginarium’ involved mapping out new spaces through stitch, drawing and conversations. Images illustrated here are of the work produced on the day.
Programme information for Milton Keynes of the Mind included the following:
This event explores what goes into making a city that doesn’t exist. Plans for new towns like Milton Keynes were closely tied to economic and demographic predictions of who its population would be and what kind of lives they would lead. How will future folk earn, travel, spend, play and recover from all their labours? The Milton Keynes Development Corporation responded with an imaginarium designed with our future selves in mind. The result is a paradoxical mix of grand designs, practical compromises and significant follies. Drawing on nearly 50 years of Open University teaching and research, participants will explain what it takes to imagine, orchestrate, govern and make a life in a place like Milton Keynes.
Meanwhile, talking with Rebecca Davies about how we might plan the activity brought to mind A Clockwork Jerusalem, a show at British Pavilion we both saw in Venice, part of the Architectural Biennial in 2014. The copy below are extracts from the catalogue entry for the exhibition, which focused our thinking and directed some of the conversations we had with audiences on the day:
…the industrial city combining traditions of the romantic, sublime, and pastoral, to create new visions of British society… looking backward and forwards, combining science fiction and historicism to form ideological and aesthetic approaches to the contemporary city… a product of the picturesque, of landscape, of narrative and of pastoralism (ref. Capability Brown, Ruskin, Turner, Soane)... a product of the industrial and the technological (ref. Brunel, Paxton, Spitfires)… showing British Modernism as a unique and sometime surreal phenomenon… an obsession with these interests written into the visions of this techno pastoralism that span such diverse examples as the Garden Cities, 'non plan' and Milton Keynes... exploring the late and last flowering or British radicalism, the moment it was at its most socially, politically, and architecturally ambitious… a moment (the 50s,60s & 70s) that also witnessed its collapse… a period that sees both epic ambition and complete loss of nerve… grand utopian projects (of that period) were a high point for a vision of society remade through modern architecture… how these modern vision were absorbed into the popular imagination, become sites of new imaginative speculation in the form of novels, film and music (ref. Stone Henge, council estates, Ebenezer Howard, Cliff Richard (!))… ruins and destructions, back-to-the-land rural fantasies…