ROBERT OWEN 250 COMMISSION
2022. public art, text, ASCII art
Robert Owen 250 sculpture text commission, and UTYPIA commissioned text published on the Oriel Davies website. Funded by Welsh Government, Powys County Council, Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn Town Council and the Robert Owen Museum. The partner organisations are the Arts Council of Wales, Oriel Davies Gallery and Race Council Cymru.
The project responds to Robert Owen, who was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer born in Newtown, Powys 250 years ago. Owen’s ideas about principled manufacturing, youth education and early child care, and the importance of community resonate with us two and a half centuries later. This honouring of Robert Owen’s legacy will however be undertaken with complete reflection of all aspects of his history including those more difficult.
Despite his many forward-thinking ideas, Robert Owen did not oppose the continuation of slavery and the use of goods from American plantations. The industry that he made his money from presents significant social and environmental concerns and many of these issues have contemporary relevance, from slavery, child labour, sweat shops, inequalities and exploitation to land erosion and throwaway fashion; the story of textiles opens lots of questions and debate.
A commemorative sculpture by Howard Bowcott, resembling a roll of unfurling textile, was commissioned; featuring bi-lingual text written by Dylan Huw and Sadia Pineda Hameed providing a contemporary reading of Owen’s ‘legacy’. Conversations were had with members of the community in the green spaces, at the community gardens and in some of the many cooperatives that exist in Newtown.
on colonial labour
we vision futures
Sadia Pineda Hameed was also commissioned to write a new text, UTYPIA. Through writing and new ASCII art of utopian architecture, the piece explores the ‘architecting' of utopia, the ways in which Robert Owen's social reforms have been inherited by modern day technoplexes, and what it means to reproduce these designs.
Images: Oriel Davies