One week to putting up the signs. The images are completed. Left- is to construct the installation, and so, what was once an idea becomes a sign.
So far- an exchange with strangers have made the images. Now- they enter a greater arena, a dialogue on the street which I will most probably not hear. But then - you never know, when the words and ideas come back to you, once the visual thoughts has been put in the world. Time to let go. The image and the people who participated - are now the star performers.
I end, for today- with a quote by Bruno Munari from his 1966 book ‘ Design as Art’:
” Today it has become necessary to demolish the myth of the ’star’ artist who only produces masterpieces for a smalll group of ultra-intelligent people. It must be understood that as long as art stands aside from the problems of life it wil only interest a very few people. Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal and be prepared to make a sign for a butcher’s shop ( if he knows how to do it). The artist must cast off the last rags of romantiscism and become active as a man among men, well up in present day techniques, materials and working methods. Without losing his innate aesthetic sense he must be able to respond with humility and competence to the demands his neighbours may make of him.” ( 2008 edt: pg. 25)
Anna has finished her third image in response to the feedback. It’s Arcadia ‘ Not For Sale”. People speak of the importance of a comforting home, or a happy working enviroment as opposed to a property, a possession , a workplace or an office. It is the safe space of a home, and the laughter shared in the office which makes a space. This is not “For Sale”. Living - is an experience, - to experience.In the same vein, my image to come, celebrate the positive feelings people have about working, being and living on Great George Street.
This will be the last week, the last hours to complete the work. Next, the ‘participants’ will choose what images to adorn their railings. On the 12th of September, Hidden Impact kicks off! All shall be revealed……
Meanhwile- some more comments:
Question: Are there any issues about the properties on Great George Street that you would like us to address in our prints?: “Only the architectural style of the buildings – some such as ours seem to have a Dutch influence and of course the existence of the mature trees.”
The trees keep coming back in to the conversation. Therefore, the trees come in to the images….
The dialogue rolls on - between the people on Great George Street - and between myseslf and fellow artist/ collaborator Anna Harley. She explains her responses as follows:
” Here is a bit of background on the prints- the historical context of the street has become important to these prints, inspired by the feedback questionnare where some people mentioned how much they liked the history of Great George Street.
Aside from the obvious 60’s hippy/daisy link, Peace and Love references William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge who are reputed to have first met at the Georgian house on Great George Street ‘Lyrical Ballads’ is a collection of poems by the pair, published by the Bristol bookseller Joseph Cottle and is ‘generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry’ (source-wikipedia) the phone numbers are their birth and death dates.
Freedom references Pero, a black slave bought in Nevis in the West Indies by the plantation owner John Pinney, who lived at who named him Pero Jones. Pinney brought Pero back with him when he moved to England in 1783, but left his two sisters, Nancy and Sheeba at the sugar plantation in Nevis. Pero lived, worked and died at number 7 Great George Street- according to the Georgian House, Pero enjoyed an unusual level of freedom ‘for a slave’. Again the contact number is his birth and death date. In 1999 a footbridge, named after Pero, was opened in the docks area of Bristol, so his name is well known to Bristol folk. The bridge ‘is one of the few public monuments to the Black and Asian presence in the whole of Britain’ (source -http:/www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/journeys/virtual_tour_html/bristol/bristol.htm)
Moving home is on the top of stressor in life. I wonder how many house moves- or loss of homes - the credit crunch has forced. Others asked to. I saw this painted on a wall in Shoreditch: “If you lost your home who would help you?’.
Compare these with the answers from Bristol when asked if owning a property is important.
‘I love my flat, and I love not having to give money to rental agencies for a terrible service. If something goes wrong I fix it. ‘
‘Yes. It’s nice to have a place you can call your own that nobody else has an influence over.’
‘I’d like it not to be but it is so tied up with way UK property market organised its hard for it not to be.’
Home - is a temple to share….
The posters finally go up on the street. This no chocolate box gallery, nor a mean street but a nice place to walk. What people think when they see the posters we can’t find out- for now.That will be the focus for the next project- paraphrasing Sartre that the viewer completes the print.People are coming back with answers. My assumptions tumble, and once again, I am reminded to suspend judgement. The answers are far more positive than expected, and therefore, I have to change an idea from critical to celebratory. ( that means making my bankslave poster is for later, and for myself, and for another event…)However, there appear to be a concensus that letting property is a theoretically good thing which doesn’t work. The properties are not cared for, neither by landlord not tenants. It doesn’t need to be that way, as a large part of Europe happily rent continoulsy and live in well managed flats. This is not alwyas the case in the UK. People of Great George Street comment on Question Nr. 4. What are your thoughts about rental property? :’My experience of renting, especially through agencies, has been that tenants (who are typically the poorest people) are horribly, horribly ripped off, feel completely powerless to do anything about it, and have to put up with holes in ceilings, mouldy bedrooms, broken central heating, and leaks, because the agency never does what it promises to do, then takes money out of the deposit when the tenant finally escapes for ‘cleaning’ when they’ve left the place a million times cleaner than when they moved in. ”My own experience over living in a block of flats is that some of the people who are renting don’t take as much care of the communal areas as those who own.”Its an excellent idea and should be encouraged more in UK”I tend to think people take better care of what they own.’
People at Great George Street have started to collecting their answers to the questions about property. The prototypes for the subverted real estate signs have been printed, but without the answers, there will be no images, no drawings. This is dialogue in practice between the maker of the images and the people of the lived experience. I am waiting, with great curiosity, for the thoughts from the people along the street.
At this point, I don’t know what the next turn of the project will be. Anna is getting ready to print. Spike Island Print Studio is spreading the word. An office is working out the answers. There seems to be a murmuring of creativity, and excited anticipation growing, in this community of undecided boarders. To you - I give you the first print.
Phase two starts. The questions below form the basis for the images. This means- no answers - no pictures! Or many answers- many ideas and drawings to come the Bristol Way! Please answer - and be part of art in your street
1. Are there any issues about the properties on Great George Street that you would like us to address in our prints?
2. Please write a few sentences about your experience of working/living in Great George Street.
3. Is property ownership important to you?
If so, give reasons for your answer
4. What are your thoughts about rental property?
5. What are your thoughts when you see a ‘For Sale by Auction’ sign?
Any other information you would like us to know, that we can use for a basis of our prints
The project is moving up one level. After knocking on doors on a cold, grey day and pushing fliers through the door, we are getting an overall positive response. George Ferguson, the great architect, community activist and founder director of Academy of Urbanism was the first one ( and four more so far) to say yes to subverted ‘For Sale’ signs on the railings of Great George Street - as long as it is not a ‘rubbish one’ !
This is the challenge - to create something visceral, skilful and aesthetic while the sign communicates thoughts on property by the participants. Also, how are the signs to be disseminated? Do each participant get a print - as a thank you in the end? Is it OK to have the signs stolen- as that would be a sign of someone liking - or hating the image enough to respond and then remove it? Are the signs to be sold - later on? Or travel in shows?
At what point from idea, conversation, production and dissemination - does the image become a meaningful dialogue?
‘The value of property’ is a collaborative project between Anna Harley, myself in conjunction with Spike Island Print Studio and the UWE Impact printmaking conference. The project explores, through fine art printmaking, the feelings around home ownership in Bristol
It will be a series of Fine art prints will be produced to simulate and subvert the ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ and ‘Sale Through Auction’ placards that are placed outside private homes.
The images will explore the hopes, dreams and anxieties people have in relation to their property; issues that are central to ordinary people in the current economic climate of falling house prices, the threat of redundancy and home repossession.
The prints will be the same size as the placard and will be produced from materials and
substrates found inside private homes, such as linoleum, wooden floors, rugs and wallpapers. Using print processes of intaglio, relief and silk screen, the materials of the house will be echoed in both process and end result. The visual language of stencil graffitti and flyposting will be integrated in the process, as this seems to be one of the last bastions of honest protest in the eyes of the people.
We intend to interview people on the street and home owners in the area; the latter may be asked to display the print/placards outside their properties. Our aim is to create a visual link between the inhabitants and the audience on the street, evoking thoughts and feeling around what a home means, what it is worth and how much it costs in emotional terms.
Spike Island and Ross Ford introduce Hidden Impact:
HIDDEN IMPACT: prints in the city
12th – 19th September 2009
Artists living, working, exhibiting or studying in Bristol will install prints in unexpected locations in central Bristol. From the wine vaults of Avery’s wine lodge to Brandon Hill overlooking the city, HIDDEN IMPACT will take you to places you may not have visited.
Shops, stores and cafés on and near Park Street from the FOPP record store at the bottom by the Council House to Howies clothing store at the top near the Royal West of England Academy will be displaying prints. Towers of books will be found in the Cathedral, there will be etchings at Temple Meads Station and bicycles with print will tour the area. You may have to search for the work or it could be self-evident.
Many forms of prints will be shown including the use of commercial placards, recycled materials, leaves, bus tickets, wine labels and digital screens. Traditional print methods such as lino cut, etching and silk-screen will also be seen.
Indoors and out all the venues will be marked on a map. Just make your own route and have fun spotting the work when you’re out and about. A map marking the venues and all the print exhibitions in the city will be available. Information and a map will be on Spike Print and IMPACT 6 websites from August.
HIDDEN IMPACT : Prints in the City is an artist-led project co-ordinated by Spike Print Studio, Bristol in conjunction with IMPACT 6 International printmaking conference organised by the University of the West of England.