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Artweeks show: The Big Book, Magdalen Road Studios, Oxford
The photograph on the right of The Big Book beside its sculptor, Diana Bell, demonstrates well the magnitude of the work itself and makes reference to the scale of the interactive project that Bell has created via the book. The book is beautifully executed and its old-fashioned binding is adorned by just one word: Imagine. The book’s binding opens to reveal canvas pages on which the public have been invited to write what they do or want to imagine. The universal appeal of the project is testified to by Bell’s estimate that the book contains entries in 64 languages.
Bell made the piece to show how using our imaginations, both individually and collectively, has enabled us to extend and take forward scientific knowledge and our creativity. The substantial sum of both knowledge and creativity that mankind has amassed can be used to explore, care for and, less happily, exploit the resources of both the human mind and of the planet.
In addition to encouraging members of the public to write in the book, Bell is also inviting local schools to participate in drama workshops and performances using their imaginations with The Big Book. Bell is no stranger to public participation projects; they have formed an important part of her work over the years. Her first project was in Oxford’s Westgate Shopping Centre, for Artweeks 14 years ago.
The Big Book is in Diana Bell’s studio in the Magdalen Road Studios, East Oxford. The studios are open on Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 6pm. In addition to experiencing The Big Book and perhaps making your own contribution to the collective body of dreams, recollections and aspirations that it has become, there is also the opportunity to visit the studio space and experience the work of the other 25 artists based in the building. Between them they cover a huge range of media: sculpture, fashion, photography, ceramics, design and installation.