chapter  10
15 Pages

Helen Chadwick: the Model Institution and personal identity

ByStephen Walker

This chapter will explore the British artist Helen Chadwick’s (1953-96)changing understanding of, and response to, the impact of the built environment upon personal identity. Chadwick’s interest in architecture was enduring and multi-faceted; her work enjoyed a two-way relationship with architecture, although the phasing and modality of this relationship were complex. Partly motivating such work was her clear belief that while the impact an environment had on identity ought to be a two-way process, architecture’s traditional approach, product and judgement system all too frequently imposed upon its occupants.2 In its four sections, the chapter will examine four key areas of Chadwick’s exploration through which she scrutinised and challenged this situation. These are: her early, built critique of the built environment; her conceptual expansion of the field of relationships between built environment and identity; the role of the body and the impact of scientific thinking on its deployment as metaphor that reinforces common sense acceptance of architecture and authority; and an unresolved call for ambivalence to be accepted within the conception and actualisation of our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with the spaces around us.