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February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

This from Claire:

This is a project based on the idea that I think the area where I live (Crouch End in north London) bears a strong resemblance to the small market town where I grew up in South Gloucestershire. Given that many people who live in London, have come from elsewhere, I’m interested in exploring what it is we look for when we decide to settle into an area and how much our history/upbringing influences those choices. I see the project as a way into exploring the community I live in and how they in turn view their environment. I think there might be scope to include a photographic comparison from where contributors grew up with my own photographic study of where they live now possibly through their own old photographs. I’m also toying with the idea of displaying the finished work as an immersive 3D installation.

This was the original idea and since then I have been doing some research into my own area and looking at ways in which I can engage in an urban ‘village’ community and represent it photographically.

Looking at the physical geography of the place I see streets and places that remind me of home – alleyways etc. the hills of the area. Residential streets. 

One area of interest to me is a green-lit construction being implemented by Islington council called Crouch Hill Community Park. It currently is a very under-used site – there is one used building which houses a youth centre and for the rest, there is some open space and a dis-used pub. 

Plans for the site are to redevelop it to house a school which is currently based in Archway, south of Crouch End and to re-use the rest of the site as a community nursery as well as refurbishing the youth centre. Building work is predicted to take place this summer. I’m thinking about trying to capture the flattening of the site to make way for the new. I’m also thinking about whether to try to conserve some of the fragments from the site for the display of the project at the end.  

I am in touch with the youth centre and what I’ve proposed is potentially a collaborative project with the young people who use the current centre, to explore what they regard as ‘community’ and indeed how it will change once the site is redeveloped. We are due to meet and discuss it after half term. 

There is some controversy over the use of the site – the police have said they don’t think it’s suitable for a school due to its lack of security – it is sited next to a public right of way which has been known to be quite isolated where people have been mugged and which is used by drug-users. 

I’m very interested in what it means to construct a community and what the symbols of it can be – this may form a central part of the project.

The Symbolic Construction of Identity by Anthony Cohen, is interesting because it focusses largely on non-visual  symbols – culture – the way people interact – the way exclusivity works within a group of people, the way people address each other. 

‘the symbols of community are mental constructs : they provide people with the means to make meaning’. [19:1985]

Yet, we build communities with buildings – this project is a case in point – ‘Crouch Hill Community Park’ suggests that through the construction on the site, community is created. I want to explore the relationship between these two things. 

The totem is an interesting example – it’s a symbol borrowed from a completely different culture and has been appropriated to mark the entrance to the youth centre site – it offers a marker, an ownership to people who use it. 

The graffitied sign suggests an ownership – a taking over of the space from the higher authorities –  not least because it cannot be reproduced, I’m curious about how the young people feel about their space changing. All this presumably will go.  

This way people communicate through signs is also a theme which is emerging through the project  – these are markers, to give  sense of location, but also a way of bringing people together.

The picture of the lost dog on the fence – it is a practical sign, which invites interaction – a cry for help. Another avenue to pursue is to look out for this type of sign and to contact the people to take their picture and hear their story. It’s a way of using found objects but then taking the story further than just the surface imagery of what’s found.

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