Robert Colbourne


Currently working with the Environment Agency on design of a flood defence scheme at Witton, Birmingham. The 'Tamed' project is commissioned by MADE.

My writing on Birmingham's new draft Public Art Strategy and consultation can be found here.


Underpinning everything I do is an initial process of research and on-site survey in the hope that I can reinterpret what I find in an appropriate and useful way. It can mean I look at such things as the history, ecology, geography and geology of a certain place.

It can also mean the area I investigate might be as large as a whole city or even smaller than a metre of path along a cliff edge. However, I always look for those important resonating details that can build relationships, inform the design process and generally enrich the conversation.

In the past I have collaborated with anyone from architects and urban designers to wildlife experts, archaeologists, historians, geographers, writers and other artists. I always seek out and welcome other kinds of expertise into a project too. This often means engaging with people of all ages who live in, work in or use a 'site' regularly. I believe that working with people is both ethical and an essential part of the process.

My working practice and past experience allow me to undertake a range of approaches to projects and places, whether this means working to briefs, delivering artist led outputs or working within a design team. It can also mean I can work at any stage of the development process.


"The crucial issue is not whether but how an artist enters a space." [Rosalyn Deutsche]

"Breaking with the modernist paradigm, artists of extraterritorial reciprocity undermine the whole issue of topography inasmuch as they refuse not only geographical borders but borders of all kinds, including those separating art from what is not art, from other and sundry social undertakings. Like territorial artists, they are suspicious of any talk of autonomy; like world artists, they decline any inheritance. Their artistic practice does not necessarily culminate in the production of works, but nor is it exclusively process based. Rather, these artists see art as a system for producing meaning, which is most effective when engaged in overstepping borders and setting up interdisciplinary 'work sites'. By displacing the creative centre of gravity toward artistic activity - originating in an artistic attitude or idea, before spreading amongst the public - these artists seek to challenge the specificity of art as work on a unique object (painting, sculpture), by activating other domains and inviting other currents of knowledge to irrigate the field of art. As they see it, art has now integrated literally everything - other disciplines, other materials of all orders - and no longer needs to retrench itself behind borders of any kind. Nothing whatsoever links art with a specific geography, and all that links it to its own history is a certain aesthetics of decision-making, specific to each artist."[Stephen Wright]

"Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem." [Rollo May]

"Loss of identity undermines commitment to place." [Nabeel Hamdi]