This conversation marks the publication of Sharon Irish’s new book, Concerning Stephen Willats and the Social Function of Art: Experiments in Cybernetics and Society (Bloomsbury, 2021).

The London-based artist Willats (b. 1943) has long explored relationships among people, buildings, and urban environments, using social practice informed by cybernetic concepts like feedback and control within living and machine systems. In 1986 he wrote in Intervention and Audience: “The place of intervention itself is perceived as one of the mediums of the work.”

Irish is joined by Jorge Lucero, artist and Associate Professor of Art Education; and Lou Turner, Clinical Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Planning; both at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to discuss artworks that Stephen Willats co-created with United Kingdom residents of modernist tower blocks as well as with people living in low-rise and semi-detached houses.

How did they describe their current situations? How did they imagine their futures?