As part of the Rhyzom research each member organised a number of workshops and field trips which tied in with their individual interests and projects. In our case we took the opportunity to work in 3 places that are important in our network and in many different ways already crossed path with our practice. We took the opportunity to bring together our colleagues and share with them not only the places we visited but also the projects we were developing within the Rhyzom framework – the International Village Shop. The first workshop took place at Grizedal Arts in Lawsons Park, Cumbria. The second in the east end of London at Abbey Gardens and the final workshop took place in the Northern Frankonian village of Höfen.
Ever since our park products projects, we have been working with ideas of co-authored local products that capture a particular local narrative either through the design, its materiality or through its production. For us the International Village Shop is a way of networking these products, its producers and the locations. The workshops in Höfen and in Abbey Gardens were specifically designed to develop new products along with the local community in collaboration with the ‘European guests’.
One of the ideas that came up during the Abbey Gardens workshop was the development of a tool which could facilitate the collective and possibly public production of a wider range of products – a press. First prototypes of what could be pressed were produced during the workshop and ranged from mud balls to pressed herbs. Rhyzom resources did not allow us to produce the press and we relied on other opportunities to bring the idea to live and connect it back to Abbey Gardens and the International Village Shop.
The press became part of a proposal for the London Festival of Architecture. We were invited by Canary Wharf Ltd. to develop a new piece which contributes to a 3 day event. Canary Wharf is in viewing distance from Abbey Gardens and it made sense to us to develop something that has a legacy beyond the 3 days. For Canary Wharf we proposed an instant public production taking place on the central plaza which turned left over material – shredded paper – into a new product – a bowl, which then was exchanged on site. The circle of ‘harvesting’ the source material, production and dissemination all happened locally. The image shows one of the bowl made of highly sensitive and very finely shredded paper from the Financial Services Authority (FSA)
The press is a simple hand powered 10 ton hydraulic bench press. It is mounted onto small trolley and sheltered by a wooden box which breaks down into a series of tables and chairs to provide an instant workshop space. It has since found a home at Abbey Gardens. It is officially owned by public works but is also a resource for the garden. People in the garden know where it comes from as they took place in the Rhyzom workshop and are starting to develop ideas of their own of what to do with it.
Wildflower Seed Bombs made with residents of Millbank Estate.
Recently public works have used the press to develop a range of seed bombs in collaboration with two gardening projects within London. We ran public production workshops in which we pressed soil from Abbey Gardens and locally harvested seeds into moulds to create seed bombs of different shapes and sizes. In both cases the seed bombs will be used on walks to plant wild flowers in left over pocket spaces. The workshops have enabled quite informal local links to occur between the different garden projects and part of the seed bomb production is now being traded in the International Village Shop. In this case it is not only the product that facilitates exchange but also its production.
We are currently preparing a publication to mark the end of a 18months long pan-european research and dissemination project called RHYZOM. It was set up in proper collective spirit by the Paris based Atelier d’Architecture Autogeree, who – to start with – sent out an open call to their widespread european network of colleagues and friends. The project focused on “Local cultural production and trans-local dissemination” and brought together a very diverse group across organisations and boarders. Check the RHYZOM website for more details.
Besides getting to know other practitioners and new collaborators (for example PS2 in Belfast), we also gained interesting insight into EU funded pan-national projects. There is now a contact in the UK to get first advice if you are planning to apply for an EU Culture Grant. It is Christian Jankowski at Visiting Arts. On the one hand it is great that large funds are available to collaborate (with at least two other european partners), and you set the agenda and themes yourself. On the other hand the whole thing needs to be signed off by EU bueraucrats who have put an incredible extensive and complicated report and finance structure in place.
Would we do it again? Yes, because it is a rare thing that you have funding to simply do what you are interested in, and to take time out for collective research. And we hopefully will be a bit smarter when it comes to run those crazy expenses sheets and make the actual cash flow work better. We wouldn’t want to lead on a whole programme yet – rather participate in one more.
Following last Friday’s symposium on Concrete Geometries, we were again confronted with the question of what art and architecture could be. There has been a lot of debate in the last decade about artists working within the architectural field. One key programme that pushed the whole discussion and practice was “Art for Architecture” run by RSA, which saw artists and architects as equal collaborators, and supported an experimental approach with an open output. Since then it has become common practice to include artists in public design schemes, master planning processes and strategic development. Working from within an art and architecture practice we are quite aware of the fundamental differences between both professions – to do with how the different professions are structures, issues of scale and duration, liabilities, accountabilities etc. This can mean quite a bit of frustration when it comes to implement ideas – the architectural planning is already ahead and procedures can’t be interrupted, which often leaves the proposal by the artist/s as something added on rather than integrated. There are a few examples of practice we always look at when it comes to architecture and collaboration and participation – or coproduction (which seems the better word). They are not necessarily artists and architects collaborations but draw from wider cultural practice and always have the users as collaborators involved. See for example “Die Baupiloten” in Berlin, presented by Susanne Hoffmann last Friday, who produce very engaging, crazy designs on a larger scale and socially sustainable, or “Le 56” a public community garden set up by Atelier d’Architecture Autogeree in Paris, who also did “Ecobox” a few years ago. If you happen to be in London later this week, go and visit the TINAG festival on Cities, a vast programme with architects, planners, artists, activists presenting ideas and projects which address our involvement in reading and shaping the urban environment.
public works is an interdisciplinary practice, and our commissions and projects take place both in the field of art and architecture/planning. Within an art context our practice is obviously considered art – since the big debates around Site Specific Art (e.g. M. Kwon in her book One Place After Another) , New Genre Public Art (S. Lacy in Mapping the Terrain), Conversational Art (G.H. Kester in Conversation Pieces) and Relational Art (N. Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics). Participatory and relational art has become mainstream practice, and has developed its own tradition around aesthetics and ethics since the 1960ies.
Within the context of architecture this kind of practice is not necessarily recognized as such. Architecture is still very much led by the idea that it needs to be a building, and architectural education and the wider profession identify themselves through designing and delivering built structures. There is an increasing debate about this limitation, and as a practice we of course see architecture as a form of spatial production that can be very many things: physical and non-physical, social and political, formal and informal. And something that is not delivered by architects only.
A one day symposium called Concrete Geometries at the Architectural Association in London will be another public platform to raise the issue. Interesting books on the subject include Art&Architecture by Jane Rendell, Architecture&Participation by P.Blundell Jones, D. Petrescu and J. Till and Design and Landscape for People by General Public Agency. Kathrin from public works has written an essay on who-is-building-what, on the relationship between relational cultural practice and spatial production.
We arrived in Johannesburg on a Friday morning with 12 students in tow. Local Architects Thorsten Deckler and Anne Graupner from 2610 South Architects came recommended to us through friends of friends. They invited us to drop in on the evening of our arrival and show some of our work at an informal presentation in their office. They called these presentations Friday Sessions. Visitors brought their own chairs and drinks to the office which was based in an old shop front. in the 2 hours of the Friday Session Johannesburg opened up to us in the most hospitable way possible. We had a chance to show what we were working on and meet fellow practitioners from Johannesburg with related agendas. In stark contrast to the gated communities and physical separation so dominant in Johannesburg, Friday Sessions felt like a key opening up the different networks of practitioners that operate in the city. A practitioner let initiative independent from the academic or cultural institutions, lead by curiosity and a desire to host and provide a platform for exchange.
(You can download a short text by 2610 South Architects about Friday Session in South Africa)
When back in London a year or so later we were about to take on our first studio space as public works and had many discussion on how to manage and use our new space. We wanted to keep the studio atmosphere as open as possible and avoid turning into a space of isolated computer production which we observed can happen so easily in so many offices/studios. An obvious conclusion to us was to create different forms of public within the space and allow networks to cross in the same way we experienced it in South Africa. We decided to take on a larger space then we needed and sublet some of the desks giving space to people we would like to share with and learn from. We left one desk empty for short term visitors who needed a desk for 1-3 month and we initiated the London version of the Friday Sessions. With all the fixed tables around the edges of the space and everything else on wheels it was easy to create enough space to host larger groups of people.
public works studio in Scrutton Street
We started to organise Friday Sessions in our former studio on Scrutton Street in March 2006 approximately once a month. Ideally but not necessarily on a Friday night we would play the host and invite friends and colleagues to show their work in and informal setting with drinks in our studio. Initially without any clear curatorial intent we hosted what came to us and what we were interested in. It allowed us to connect and provided an interesting ground for debate. People were recommended to us or came to a session and approached us with an idea. Friday Sessions are free and open to all, no booking is necessary and the drinks are complimentary.
Bill Drummond narrating and performing THE17 at Friday Session 17
At the end of 2008 we had to vacate our studio and moved further east, taking on a slightly smaller space but with the same ambitions and set up. Having run Friday Sessions for 3 years we felt that we wanted to change something and for a short while in 2009 we moved the sessions out of the studio and into spaces and situations where we worked in or which wanted to visit and collaborate with. Since this year Friday Session are back indoors but with a stronger focus and link to public works’ agenda and interests. Generally we avoid presenting our own work at the session but we had the desire to structure the debates closer around topics that relate more specifically to our practice.
Friday Session 41 which took place last Friday (October 8, 2010) was an opportunity to linvite related projects and their authors that deal with ideas of shops as a platform for cultural exchange and take this as an opportunity to launch the International Village Shop website.
Ever since Park Products project for the Serpentine Gallery in 2004 we have been interested in co-produced products with strong local narratives, which refer to specific spaces and the communities that occupy them and which helped produce the products with us. The market stall on which those products were offered to the wider public became a tool for exchange not only of the products themselves but also for all the related issues,spaces and relationships embodied in the individual products. Trade was not based on a monitory currency but on a bartering system set by each producer. The products and the market stall started to network those relationships and the many spaces and producers involved.
Since Park Products we have experimented with ideas first raised in Park Products in many different ways and in a number projects and collaborations leading us to participate in and help set up the International Village Shop.
The International Village Shop is a growing network of organisations and artists who set up permanent and temporary trading places for goods that are rooted locally. The organisations Grizedale Arts, myvillages.org, public works and somewhere have worked with shop formats, trade and collaborative production for many years. Since a Grizedale Arts Residency in 2007 the different approaches, strands and products cross each other regularly in the International Village Shop and have become a joint venture which has now an official digital outlet with launch of the International Village Shop Website.
The Friday Session 41 was one event of a series of launches taking place in the UK, Holland and Germany. The evening kicked of with Kit Hammonds introduction of publish and be damned, an annual platform for self publishers which takes place in London. Followed by Michael Smythe from NOMAD who spoke of his involvement with Agrofashionista.tv (now called Toadball.tv). A Grizedale Arts project which saw the an outing of the International Village shop at the Royal Academy and the setting up of the Grizedale honesty stall at the A-Foundation. Michael is currently working on a public medicinal herb garden in central London. Christian Nold presented his idea for a local currency 2.0 which he just tested in Bijlmer, Amsterdam – the Bijlmereuro. The round of presentations finished with Leila McAlistair who introduced us to her grocery shop which she runs in east London. For many years Leila has been involved with food wholesale in London. Her shop has the simple ambition of providing excellent food and Leila goes through great length to source her food, working with a large number of suppliers as well as many local community organisations.
A good example was the basket of apples that Leila brought to the Friday Session which came freshly harvested from a disused orchard in Gloucester. Running a small orchard is not viable anymore within the current wholesale system in the UK which is dominated by large supermarkets. Leila paid for someone to drive up to the Orchard and harvest Apples for her shop and for the Friday session. In return for the Apples we gave Leila a video we had produced for Agrofashionista and some Horse-Milk Shampoo from Holland – trade in the new public works outlet of the International Village Shop has started.
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This just in from Johannesburg – A mind map drawing by Thorsten Deckler contextualising main projects by their practice and how Friday Sessions fit in.
Friday Sessions are informal evenings at the public works studio where friends and colleagues present projects and ideas. The sessions are open to the public, and we always have some drinks and discussion.
Trade, alternative currencies and local production have increasingly entered cultural practice and debate over the last years. This session brings together presentations of existing projects that range from alternative currencies to local medicine production and stocking a corner shop. Followed by drinks and discussion.
- Christian Nold on his local-currency project Bijlmereuro in Amsterdam
- Michael Smythe on his current project “Phytology”, looking into urban food and medicine productions
- Kit Hammonds and Emily Pethick, founders of the publisher’s fair Publish and Be Damned
- Leila Mc Alistar who runs Leila’s Shop near Arnold Circus
The session is part of a series of events to mark the launch of the International Village Shop website. The International Village shop is a collaboration between artists and organisations to set up a trans-local network of trading and places for goods with strong local connections.