Since the 1980s, Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell have been developing an artistic approach which questions the very foundations of architecture, essentially by way of the plan. In their works, the rarely looked at plan is exhibited in bas-reliefs: organized as polyptychs, these proceed from the juxtaposition of plans of buildings differing in their function (the plan of a bank and a prison, or the plan of Chambord Castle and the Grande Arche de la Défense, in Paris), but also in the date of their construction (The Kitchen, 1978). What these artists are seeking to express through buildings marked by history—factories, hospitals, prisons, schools, museums—is the similarity and significance of certain geometric figures which determine the distribution of our public places, whatever their use. The plan is indeed the expression of the imposition of a political, economic and cultural power, the expression of an ideology. Here, however, it acquires a flexibility of form and meaning: at once abstract and figurative, motif and ornament, style and content, it can be transformed into a corporate logo (Logo Works, 1998), into a neo-plasticist picture or into household furniture (in particular the chair, a recurrent feature in their work). The relations between architecture and furniture (Negotiating Table, 1991), between the building and its representation (The Ministry, 2002), and between the rational design of the plan and its transformation into a precious relief subtly made with many perfectly rendered crevices, are the foundation of an oeuvre which reconciles sculpture, painting and architecture. Nowadays, their production extends to construction, (the glass and steel pedestrian bridge in Paddington Station in London, 2002), film and animation (The House of Osama bin Laden, 2003), as well as public sculpture (Moving World, Night & Day, at a Heathrow terminal, 2008).
Ben Langlands (London, 1955) and Nikki Bell (1959) live and work in London. Trained in fine arts at the Middlesex Polytechnic College in London between 1977 and 1980, they have been working together since 1978 and exhibiting since the early 1980s. There have been major exhibitions of their work (Imperial War Museum, London, 2003; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 2006; MoMA, New York, 2006). In 2004, they won the BAFTA Award for Interactive Arts Installation, and in that same year they were nominated for the Turner Prize.