As part of ROOM 6.3 / Dear London (November 2017-May 2018), hARTslane presented New Narratives, where we celebrated the empty, forgotten buildings in London and imagine a new use for them, a new relation between people and space, where humanity is at heart.
The show brought together architects, designers and artists who are invited to present projects and ideas where empty unusual spaces are reconfigured and used for social rather than economic benefit.
Rachael Bowyer | Kevin Brennan | Cedric Christie, Benedict Philpott, Byony Bridge (flute) & Peter Paul Nash | Guy Forrester & Sven Mündner |
Nayan Kulkarni | Maria Lothe | Pat Meagher | Louise Melchior, Carolyn Clewer, Tiphaine de Lussy | Kate Murdoch | Marta Nowicka & Voytek Ketz |
Ethan Pettit | Fred Rigby | Margit Sbicca Mulder | Sigrun Sverrisdottir | Lucy Tauber | Anna Versteeg, Naomi Shaw, Ioana Marinescu & Tapio Snellman.
THE RED CHAIR PROJECT
Anna Versteeg & Naomi Shaw - Architects with Ioana Marinescu - Photographer, Tapio Snellman - Filmmaker
take a Seat, sit in your Space, what do you See........
As local authorities have ever decreasing resources to manage their existing, often ageing properties, and private finance is used to develop our built environment, the question of what is public space arises?
Many of our contemporary accessible spaces have restrictive rules imposed upon them by their private land-owners. Other privately-owned developments suggest pockets of land or parts of buildings open to a communal use but
how can the public take ownership of these under such circumstances?
We suggest that the benefits in providing shared spaces, the use of which are the responsibility of a network of local communities, has never been more valuable if a stable, healthy society is to be supported within a global city. The need to identify a new series of public and communal spaces across the city has led us, as architects, To question the existing empty, derelict or apparently uninhabited structures and landscapes in our neighbourhood that might provide such an opportunity. The proposal is to ‘make public’ the possibility of grass-roots use of these places.
Clusters of red chairs appear around, inside or next to empty / disused structures, signifying the possibility of people coming together to use and to temporarily & peacefully occupy the place. Postcards of the red chair, a symbol of this act, will be distributed across the neighbourhood.
What is the response of the public to this previously latent opportunity that the act of sitting together on mutual ground now exposes? We seek to record this through film and photography. The project will be located in and around Wapping (London E1) in the first instance. Is there a public interest? Are these spaces easily appropriated? Is there a sense of ownership that follows? How do the land-owners respond to the attention this act provokes?
Bushwick and Williamsburg 2010 by Ethan Pettit
These drawings are from a series I made in northern Brooklyn, New York City. They focus on two sites: The Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, and an old industrial waterway called Newtown Creek
in a part of East Williamsburg that is generally considered Bushwick.
The Domino sugar refinery is an iconic industrial site on the shore of the East River, near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. For nearly 150 years the Domino company processed sugar at this site, which at one point accounted for half the sugar consumed in the United States. The site has a powerful significance for the community. Generations of local people worked here, many of them with roots in the Caribbean. From there as well came the sugarcane by ship directly to the refinery. When the Domino complex finally ceased operations in 2004, the future of the site became a matter of contentious debate. I was in a group that petitioned City Hall for a university at the site, as evidenced in these drawings. Another group called for a museum and cultural center along the lines of the Tate Modern in London with its repurposing of an old power station. And there was a strong push as well for subsidized housing. Today only the shell of the flagship building in the complex has been conserved, and the Domino property is under redevelopment as retail space, residential towers and parkland.
Newtown Creek is a 3.5-mile (6-kilometer) long tributary of the East River. It is one of the most polluted industrial sites in the United States, with an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled petroleum, and raw sewage from the city’s sewer system. The surface of this meandering canal can sometimes appear limpid, but they say that just under the surface stands a deep stratum of “black mayonnaise.” In 2010, the year I made these drawings, the site was designated a major clean-up priority by the federal government.
One especially dank tendril of this waterway has the aptly sardonic name of English Kills, and can be accessed by a metal footbridge. It was from that vantage point that I imagined swimming in the place — to be sure, in some impossible future, after some miraculous ecological cure. Others have also imagined, projected their wishes upon this degraded waterway, that it be anything but what it is. There is a “nature walk” along Newtown Creek for example, and a hazmat-suited kayaking club. And these of course are gestures, environmental public relations tinged with some irony. But they are effective gestures, they suggest a vision of what our post-industrial cities could become.
Hylozoism is the notion that all matter is in some sense alive — air, fire, magnets, and so forth. It is the trope that inspires the title for these meditations on post-industrial Brooklyn. And it nods to the peculiar vitalism of a movement where art meets urbanism in Brooklyn over the past quarter century.
In the early 1990s, there was unleashed upon Williamsburg an unrelenting cascade of illegal nightclubs, warehouse events, rituals and bacchanals that lasted for five years. In Bushwick in the mid-2000s, massive, incandescent, fire-breathing and mobile events would engulf many buildings in a single night, sending crowds on wild goose chases down alleyways and over rooftops, or boarding a rusty boat in Newtown Creek. Storied platoons such as Lalalandia, The Cat’s Head, The Federation of Ongolia, The Danger, The Junction, and legendary venues such as Galapagos, Rubulad, House of Yes and scores of other things, are the legacy of a social movement in Williamsburg and Bushwick whose cause célèbre is the fallow industrial environment, the place itself. It is a society that occupies the twilight zone between industry and an unprecedented urbanity that is still being imagined.
Ethan Pettit runs Ethan Pettit Gallery in Brooklyn NY, where he shows contemporary art and maintains archives on Brooklyn.