Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What this city really needs is...

During the Longhouse publication launch on Friday, 16th May I set up the mini-project 'What this city really needs.' The Longhouse PAD (mentioned previously) gave 9 artists an opportunity to think about and respond to the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
The process was incredibly interesting, causing a reframing - asking me to look with fresh eyes at the faults and indeed the good points of this city, my home. 'What this city really needs' aims to provide the same sort of reframing for others - and is also a chance for people to voice their opinions on the regeneration process and the changes that are effecting the fabric of the city on a daily basis.
'What this city really needs' consists of a map of the city centre and lots of map pins with tags which visitors to the Longhouse publication launch exhibition could put their suggestion, thoghts and ideas on and then pin them onto the map.Interestingly, quite a few of the suggestions were to bring back buildings and features of the city which have been lost as a result of previous 'improvement' schemes. This really underlines the need to consult the public and users of a place when plans are being drawn up to change it - in order to avoid making mistakes and losing valuable assets.
One of my favourite suggestions that someone made was to build some permanent concrete table-tennis tables, like the ones in Berlin. I have seen those tables in Berlin, and they are really well used - people bring their bat and ball with them - and sometimes you even have to queue to get a game. This would be a fantastic addition to the city centre - perhaps we could set up a temporary one, and then use that as a way to ask people if they'd like a permanent one - and what other changes they would like to see.
Alongside the map is a plinth with the instructions on it, and the pens for writing on the tags, and also a pile of postcards. They read 'We don't need a cinema or an art gallery here......what this city really needs is a great big supermarket.' This is a comment on the fact that the local ABC cinema (that was just a few doors down from AirSpace, had a pink leopard skin carpet and a powder room), was being demolished at the time that the Longhouse PAD took place.
The results of the poll, which was set up on this blog to ask the question 'What does this city really need,' were also displayed at the launch - in the toilets! The aim of this piece was to highlight the unreliability of polls. I invited people I know, and people who may happen upon this blog to vote - most of those would be artists, or at least art sympathisers, and therefore the vote would be entirely biased. Given the four options for what this city really needs which included: a sports centre with a swimming pool, a contemporary art gallery, a great big supermarket or a tram system, most of those asked would choose a gallery (66% in fact). When displayed the statistics do not give any information about where the poll was taken or who was asked.
I think the results are fairly conclusive: What this city really needs is a contemporary art gallery!

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