BY Pádraig Timoney in Reviews | 11 NOV 97

In the Student Union bar, Owada, led by Martin Creed who watched his fretboard constantly except on barchords, played their scratchy little songs. Like a Devoto/Talking Heads combination, and with similar legibility to the Ramones, they ran through titles like Short G, (guess), and A-Z until the drum'n'bass crew waiting for the stage finally had enough and boomed Owada into capitulation with beats and dry ice. An interesting event for the bemused Friday night students, the performance was also interesting in terms of the show of which it was part. 'Visitor' asked artists for interventions in the strangely public/non-public spaces available throughout the Campus of Staffordshire University at Stoke. From library to Halls of Residence to public trails leading through the area, the works aimed to set out their specific identities in relation to the sometimes fragile situation of the visitor stopping over. As an institution, the Campus contextualised the work by setting it against the constant transience of the student body with its yearly influx and egress.

Liz Price's Hot Tap (1997) related a similar condition of flux: plumbed into the water system of the University, a slowly dripping outside tap eventually filled ripe, red balloons. Weight or pressure eventually burst them from their leafy home, the dead skins gathering on the ground below. Keith Wilson doctored a tree with a saw, cutting off branches at the points where the revealed cross-section would match the diameter of a snooker-cue tip, and covering the stumps with blue chalk. The distribution of little caps became increasingly visible, but time, wind and general movement wore many of them off. In fact, the work was gradually disappearing. Probably invisible to the casual passer-by, the branches' crooked cues put a different spin on the idea of itinerance - how you must follow convoluted signs that are obvious only to those who know where to find them.

Matthew Thompson and Stewart Wilson also dealt with camouflage. Thompson's painted circles on the roads of the campus were evidently landing zones, but for what? Perhaps for the paranoia that comes with noticing these markings among the everyday traffic code of yellow lines, give ways signs etc. The recognition that these circles immediately begin to impose a new code of their own brings into consideration, as corrupted, the normal vocabulary of street signifiers. Wilson devised a phonebox with no apparatus except a headset. The noise of sheet steel under different types and degrees of duress rattled through the speakers. Mirrored with photosensitive film, the box was a dubious haven in the day - you could see out, but its reflective exterior made it all the more noticeable from afar. At night, the mirroring switched sides - the occupier was clearly visible from outside, but couldn't see through their own reflection within. The sounds emphasised the adrenal sensuality located within the listener's small body.

Dan Bonsall once said that his mental picture of the protagonist in different novels was always that of exactly the same person. In the University Library, Andrew Bannister's work listed, in alphabetical order, his personal library. There was a lot of worthy Modernism and all the usual suspects. But you still tried to build up a mental picture of the person from the inventory, although the associations of the titles suggested a reading list: the students' yearly requirement for exam success and a great future of achievement. Bannister's books supplied a humorous quirk - as if studying all these writings had led to the fabulously successful position of being invited to come back to a library and put up a list on the wall. Jane Mulfinger's jokes, located in the coffee-bar, were rooted in the universality of generalised assumptions and deep-pile stereotyping between nationalities. Almost impossible to read, as if delivered in an embarrassed whisper in a native language to the heterogeneous student population of the space, the jokes privileged declamative pairings, such as the split-nationality joke in Italian delighting in Naples' bad reputation.

Okay, so students like to adorn their rooms with traffic cones... Behind the halls of residence, along a pastoral river meadow, Ed Lipski and Christopher Kinsella built a theme-park pioneer settlement - clapboard church, cage, path, broadcast aerial and comic-book gallows. The church was the first thing to be trashed, the bamboo cage disappeared, as if the inhabitants of the area were performing their own edit on the scenario, and seizing their own trophies. So was it significant that the last things standing were the gallows and the TV aerial? There is still authority in happy valley.

Pádraig Timoney is an artist and writer who lives in Naples, Italy.