After designing a series of creative interventions that explored how artistic tools (like listening, game-play and discussions of art works themselves) might inform the research, I collaborated on the creation of a more formal artistic project to explore the inquiry from another, practice-based angle.
This project which I describe below, broke down the central question "what is the role of the arts for Hammersmith United Charities" into the following particulars:
What could be the value of the arts in the context of celebrating the residents publicly, beyond the walls of the charity?
What could be the value of an artistic project as a research tool for a new intergenerational housing project between the charity and the architecture firm, Levitt Bernstein? How might older peoples’ stories about living in the area and in their current homes reveal insight for the future development?
What is the value of a project led by an artist who has been embedded in the charity for a year, getting to know the residents before the project and sustaining relationships afterwards?
Working with video artist Paul Burgess, we interviewed and filmed 7 of the charity’s residents to discover their perspectives on living in the housing schemes designed for older people, as well as their memories of living in Hammersmith and the world at large.
From the practical to the expressive, these reflections fill the architectural models that have been built by Levitt Bernstein to reflect the flats at the charity and inform future housing development.
Participating residents attended the opening launch party of the exhibition or came to visit throughout the exhibition with staff.
How it came about...
In reference to Michael Rohd's spectrum of art-making process, this particular project sits between 'socially engaged' and 'civic' practice.
Initiated by the researched community, the project responded to multiple stakeholder desires:
West London Architects and Hammersmith London Business Improvement District (BID) were presenting an exhibition as part of 2017’s ‘memory-themed’ London Architecture Festival. They approached Hammersmith United Charities to elicit memories from older residents.
Preparation for Future Events-
The charity wanted to participate because it felt like a a good pre-cursor to celebrate the memories of the residents leading up to the 400th anniversary celebrations in 2018.
My own artistic process & practice began to guide a response:
The charity approached me because I had an established relationship with the older residents they house. For a few months I had been facilitating discussions about how they might like to celebrate the charity’s upcoming 400th anniversary.
My artistic practice
My artistic practice over the last couple years has focused on a number of projects around ‘memory’ –using a juxtaposition of layers of film and real objects as a way to discern relationships between the past and the present, and I quickly got excited and proposed a project that would involve filming interviews with the residents about their memories and then projecting them into miniature models of their flats as a way to imagine future housing.
Joint collaboration facilitated the project's realisation:
Potential research opportunity for multiple stake-holders
The charity saw this idea as beneficial research for a new intergenerational housing scheme they were beginning to develop with community engaged architecture firm: Levitt Bernstein
The architects from Levitt Bernstein were excited about the potential design inspiration that might emanate from the older peoples’ memories and current perspectives on where they live. They agreed to build the architectural models and we then spent 6 weeks collaborating on a creative design and production process.
"Remembering the Future"
London Festival of Architecture, St. Paul's Centre June, 2017
Made in collaboration with video artist Paul Burgess and Levitt Bersntein architects, this film & architecture installation featured older residents' memories of Hammersmith and their perspectives on housing.
It formed part of The London Festival of Architecture's Where do you think you are? exhibition at St. Paul's Centre in Hammersmith.
Tim Hughes, the charity's Chief executive articulated the impact in terms of:
Engagement + Partnership
Addiitionally, the charity, the architecture firm and I will continue to measure the impact as additional edits are made to hours of interview footage and categorised for the benefit of the charity, its residents and the architects in terms of:
"I loved this project. It's a clever and creative representation of the lives of people living in a small community. All beautifully recreated with with humour, compassion and empathy."
-Participant/resident of John Betts House
Impact- Strategic Plans
"The project as a whole saw the charity "punching above its weight". What started off as a Big Conversation with Hammersmith Society in March 2017 serendipitously turned, only 3 months later, in to a key exhibit in a much larger Festival. We never imagined any of this happening, it wasn't part of the charity's plans, and we didn't know what the end product would be until we saw it. It was a demonstration of the key values of person centeredness, and of trust." -Tim Hughes
“The exhibit served as a vehicle to give voice to, and revealed the rich and diverse lives and memories of, older Hammersmith residents. People not always heard. The label of age was stripped away, and we saw and heard the fun loving and gregarious youthful selves; people shaped by the locality, work and family life, and by war."- Tim Hughes