Its been an extraordinary summer leading up to the beginning of this new dialogue on the Drive and Attlee terrace estates that sit side by side with Walthamstow Village. From our garage studio the Twitter project begins and now the drawing shed itself is activated by another artist as part of the E17 art Trail and drawing shed curated project. What is this? Well, as part of the Be creative Be Well project funded by ACE (check out Well London), we have invited another Walthamstow based artist to join us on the estates to develop a piece of work in response to the shed as a studio, socially engaged or not and loosely connected to drawing. We as the drawing shed artists are here to support and gently curate but not direct (how do we do this, well, suddenly we are in tune and its happening easily). Jo Waterhouse is the young artist who has hit the ground running, pushing the drawing shed itself out as an almost daily ritual onto the washing line space on the grass close to the garage.
She sets its up with a series of boxes laid on edge and on side to create a moveable display cabinet as part of SHELF, inviting residents to bring important (personal) objects to them; we have built up a network of local people we know so this begins to flow. An asian family bring beautiful things from their flat and set up a still life in the shed and Jo talks with them and photographs them all with the scene; J brings his collection of cars and L her precious set of darleks ( both collected over many years) that sit surprisingly easily together in the early evening sunshine. L stands with her family to be photographed and others watch on. Two weeks ago we had not even met Jo and now we cannot imagine her not being with us as the new work engages so well with the ethos of the project....which is? Constantly evolving ….. and the word 'Arcadian' is not just wonderful serendipity of a word connected to where we got our old letterpress wooden letters for the WordSearch. (Diane loved the project so much with artist Sister Corita as our inspiration that she donated many of the letters to us thus sponsoring the project)
Someone stops us again whilst we put back up the 8 'letters' that the caretakers on the Drive have carefully taken down in an attempt to keep the place tidy ..... “I was late for work yesterday” she says, “photographing the wordseach on my mobile phone. So glad its going back up as I was beginning to feel like I was living in a prison camp!” We have taken over the existing signage on twhich punctuates the estate rudely and loudly and which some residents find offensive. Families, many of the same children and parents who worked with us to make the mobile ClayOven launched on the Big Lunch in July have worked with us to create a giant wordsearch to literally connect the two estates that are split by the leafy Drive. (People do not often cross over from one side to the other but we have set this up to create that journey) It spells out a well known phrase, a comfortable reinforcer but it also challenges the idea of Home. Participants had to trust us on this one as we did not tell them what the phase was ...... We are currently working with this thought, and tipping it as we use this to trigger the Twitter with the resident community - to begin a public conversation with us and their neighbours. There are things to say and we know that this will not always be comfortable.
As word spreads residents are coming forwards now to take part in this, sometimes the prints will only be up for the afternoon , documented as the conversation races on...Bobby Lloyd, co lead artist creates a double sided poster Home Front, Back Home. Already the 'edges' are showing, you can feel it. Trust is the key here, respect has been earned. As artists we both work with 'resilience' and this has certainly been tested this past week as the taking over of this public space even with the soft start engages debate. Who's space is it? Who controls it? Who can say what? Why and what do local people use this space for, is it up for grabs? Creating a public discussion also throws up issues of ownership and of 'belonging', responsibility and control.
How do we share this? Well, it'll go up on those signs so watch this space.
Soon PrintBike will be mobile and taking us out from the garage as the weather gets cooler and into other spaces.....moving the conversation on. Alongside the work for E17 we have also been developing our own posters, in the small and even metaphorical spaces between workshops and supporting Jo's work, a new art practice is developing, a language which is bombarded with a shared experience, a deeper content rigorously sifted from and a rich overload of information. Monoprints of domestic items mapping the discarded and recycled from the dumping point opposite the studio are drawn out overlaid with text; these are huge, overblown and the template for screen prints later in the day. Tomorrow in fact just as the E17 Art Trail 2010 ends.