hopeful art

In my post today I just want to share with you a little bit about my research into an artwork in Liverpool called the Granby Winter Garden. This is part of my writing work about hope in art.

The writer Rebecca Solnit, talking about hope, and its relationship with the past and with grief and loss, in her book ‘Hope in the Dark’, quoting Patrisse Cullors:

“Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matters, early on described the movement’s mission as to “Provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams.”

(Solnit, Hope in The Dark, p.xii)

Granby Winter Garden is hopeful, because its makers understand hope as a practice, an orientation. I encourage you to look at the images in the links after you read this. They show something that people are doing together about something that has been done to them, something that we can all recognise to some degree, something that hurts.

In 2015, the ‘Assemble’ collective won an important mainstream UK prize for contemporary art, the Turner Prize. As a multi-disciplinary architecture practice, Assemble is an unusual winner of a contemporary art prize.

Assemble had been involved in a number of projects that grew out of the work and the dreams of residents of Granby in Liverpool, and which supported the empowerment of community members and community groups. The overall aims were to regenerate, rennovate, green up and refurbish streets in a degraded and devalued urban area, such that people could live in pride, dignity and connection with one another.

The work for which Assemble were nominated for the art prize was the ‘Granby Winter Garden’, an indoor garden made from partly demolished Victorian terraced houses, in which the group were working collaboratively with local residents and grassroots community organisations. The garden is ongoing, and is run by a Community Land Trust in partnership with the gardener Andrea Ku and local residents. It shows us what happens when something that has been devalued is valued. It makes a dream into something physical. It has made the condemned and gutted houses into a sheltered and covered garden, a place for connection and transformation.

art reflection

some thoughts on showing

To show, and for someone to want to see what I show.

I have a set of tools, to make the thing that I show distinctive, interesting or appealing enough to make someone pick it up, turn it over, try to pocket it, so to speak.

There’s a nature documentary film with a little monkey in a fig tree, she is handling all the figs on the branches, and picking and eating the ripe figs, leaving unripe ones on the tree. This work is like ripening figs.

My tools relate to the choices that I make – the things that brought me here – things that get under my particular skin – themes and materials and processes – and the way that I can work with them.

So where is the service in this?

I don’t like telling, just like I don’t like being told. I am interested in showing something. I’ll extend that and say: showing something in a way that makes a person see it differently. Or maybe just waters a little question that is already growing in a person’s mind.

Why is this important (showing something in a different way)? Why is that generous, why would a person want, need or choose an encounter with something that I had made?

The answer has to do with seeing (or listening or handling), and making. Here is what I think. It is true that there is a world that exists and is shared; that we are born into (or out of) a world. But at the same time it is also true that we make the world, everyone makes the world; that when you look or listen or turn something over in your hands, you are making the world.

A person can learn to see differently, pay attention differently.

Therefore it follows that there is the possibility, in seeing differently, of making the world differently. A possibility of transformation – of yourself, of the world as you make it, of the world as we all see it and share it.

Is this the service? The offer of the possibility of transformation?