Monday, March 29, 2010

Interrogation: Worcester

MADE presentation - Worcester the making of a modern city from Nathaniel Pitt on Vimeo.

Nat Pitt has been asked to give a talk at the MADE symposium ‘Worcester – Building a Modern City’ which takes place on Tuesday, 30th March 2010 (that's tomorrow!). As one of the original Interrogation agents, Agent Pitt made contact and invited us to come over and Interrogate the public art of Worcester. A contact point was established, and Agent Pitt, Agent Orange, Agent Winnett and I met up – the video piece above was the result of the days interrogation. We met at a really weird fake country play area for kids and families, where there is a piece of public art which is apparently a cattle run for humans. The plan was to respond to each piece; interrogate the work in some way - give it some attention, question it, find out what it means; try to make some sense. It was fast, true interrogation style in that way, we simply arrived at each site, and then decided who would do what. I believe in a quick and responsive mode of working, but do think that some planning time is also necessary. I wish I could go to the symposium tomorrow where the video piece will be shown, but I am off to interrogate Glasgow...

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's funny how synchronicity occurs in the city all the time. There is some sort of rhythm to things...

Anyway, Andy told me to watch a program this week called 'Requiem for Detroit' it was an amazing documentary on the fall of the motor city. Looking at the AMAZING buildings which supported the massive car industry in America. The city was once filled with 2 million people, but with the processes of deindustrialisation the city has seen a mass emptying out. There are now just 800,000 left - the beautiful buildings, homes to rich companies are now standing empty, falling down. It was beautifully filmed, and really showed what it is that creative people see in the places. We are looking at death, and the ghosts of greed - or something? Strangely the day before watching the program I came across Broken City Lab - a group of creative urban activists, based on the other side of the Detroit river in Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is in a similar position to Detroi, having survived and built it's living around the motor industry. I have got in touch with the group and I am having a conversation with them for the website. Justin A. Langlois their research director says

"Detroit is at least 10 or 15 years ahead of Windsor, in terms of economic downturn and the social implications thereof. Windsor is suffering from the collapsing auto industry; we’ve lost a lot of jobs, we have the highest unemployment rate in Canada, and the city really seems to be struggling to figure out what to do next. Detroit already seems far past this point"

It must be like looking over the river to your future. We are talking about the way that though this is a very painful and difficult process for the city, the creative people within the city can be very inspired by it - making sense of the difficult situation.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Longhouse Guest Editor - One week On

So, I have been guest editor on the Longhouse website for a week now. It has been a busy week - I have been at University working every day, and then trying to fit this in, in between - so a busy one. On top of that it was Pecha Kucha on Thursday night - so that was quite a bit to organise, and meant that I didn't get a chance to update the website that day. Thought for the Day for Thursday was not recorded on site until Friday night...but sometimes these things happen. I really feel that this is how things are for artists these days: juggling jobs, projects, writing, doing, exploring - we have busy lives, and have to be very flexible. I mentioned this to Keith Weston, and he said it has always been this way, especially when you are starting out - you have to be very enterprising - and really able to maximise every opportunity.
I think the Talking City ezine is going really well. I have been quite surprised by the willingness of other artists and practitioners to engage in conversations for the site - and feel that this in particular is turning out to be a successful element of the project. I think the conversations are really exposing some of the issues which artists working within the public realm face; and this is always worthwhile. There have only been a couple of people who have not responded to my request for a conversation; and unsurprisingly these are what I would describe as public realm employees - people employed in public sector jobs, and in charge of urban renewal, and cultural development. The fact that yet again it is the arts practitioners who are willing to enter dialogues, and be reflective and critical about the role of arts and culture in the city, and the public sector employees are disinterested, flags up for me the problems that we face. Until the conversation becomes joined up, and until those 'in charge' start to truly care about the issues, and becoming willing to push themselves and question their practices, we will always be stuck in a position of unhealthy status quo. It seems that they are always working to rule, doing it becasue they have to, and not because they care or want to.
Hewitt and Jordan speaking in 2004 drew attention, I think, to how artists can make work which directly dissents against the tick-boxing methods of councils and other public realm bodies, who employ art and culture as an easy option;
"We always try to avoid making something—
not even a video—not that we can make
video anyway. We know that we are
making it difficult for ourselves. I think
that the reason for this is a desire to focus
the attention on the intervention/process
itself rather than on an object—an object
brings ‘relief’ to the normal spectator of art."
-(Hewitt & Jordan, 2004, p. 47).
If what we make has no longevity, it cannot be used as tangible evidence for how well the local authorities are doing at investing in arts and culture (for change) in an area. Perhaps in Stoke-on-Trent we should have some sort of art strike - where we all refuse to make work for a week in protest over the lack of meaningful investment in arts and culture in the city?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Talking City - Thought For The Day

“To look at the cross-section of any plan of a big city is to look at something like the section of a fibrous tumor.”

- Frank Lloyd Wright, (1867 – 1959)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Talking City Ezine

This month I am guest editor on the Longhouse website, and under this banner I have started 'Talking City' an Ezine which uses traditional magazine features to explore and investigate the artist's role in the post-industrial world. There will be a number of exciting features of the Ezine - including Ask Anna - an Agony Aunt page for public realm artists; an in conversation section where I talk to artists about their work, and a series of exciting com:missions; amongst other things. I am really excited, but a bit daunted about using a different web based package. Have got to grips with it a bit today anyway, and have already put out the call for the com:missions. Go to the Longhouse website & follow my progress this month.
One of the Ezine Pages is a Thought for the Day - each will be a quote, thought or observation around cities. I will also put them on here:

“…in city planning… you start with the people and have motor traffic and buildings as second priorities.”

- Jan Gehl, 2010