UCL East


Catch up on Trellis Public Art Festival 2021

10 August 2021

For a week in April this year, the Trellis Public Art Festival showcased the various artworks produced at the end of a year-long programme of knowledge exchange between researchers and artists in east London.

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, the artist, signs in BSL during the creation of Light-Wave, photo Ollie Harrop, 2020

This year’s Trellis Public Art Festival, which consisted of both live (online) events and a digital exhibition, highlighted the importance of active communication and collaboration between the community of the East End, local London artists and UCL researchers. 

Funded by the research council for Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) and UCL Public Art, Trellis Festival helped generate final artworks which expanded existing boundaries, connecting to and illustrating many perspectives. Each project outcome was co-designed with the local community, bringing together ideas and disciplines to address diverse issues of importance to the people of east London. 

As discussed in Arts Professional, Sam Wilkinson (Head of Public Art at UCL) and Rosie Murdoch (Curator of Trellis at UCL) refined the process of collaboration from a ‘speed dating’ model used last year, to a more open and gentler process - focused on timed questions around an object that participants felt epitomised their research or artistic practice. 

This helped to produce new and different responses, leading to deeper conversations, and contributing to describe the same research in different ways. They wrote: “this process is all about being open. You will be surprised by the connections you make if you give them a chance”.

All seven selected artists exhibited in the 2021 festival have strong ties to east London, either living there or working in the boroughs around the UCL East campus. Each of them has spent the last year working with UCL researchers, in partnership with local communities, to address issues of importance to the area. 

The five projects are: 

1. Mulberry – Tree of Plenty: Artists Sara Heywood and Jane Watt, explored the many material and meaningful functions of the mulberry tree, with biomaterials specialist David Chau and Bethnal Green residents.

2. Light-Wave: Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq, a deaf artist, and sign language researcher Bencie Woll have collaborated with people in east London’s deaf community to engage with, and increase recognition of, their history, culture and language.

3. Xenia Citizen Science Project: This is a collaboration between artist Sarah Carne, biochemical engineer Charnett Chau and architect-designer Danielle Purkiss working on a composting project with Xenia, a Hackney-based community knowledge and language exchange for women.

  • You can discover the collaborative book they produced and launched at the Festival in this document (scroll to p13-14 for the relevant story).

4. Flow Unlocked: Artists Jon Adams and Briony Campbell, alongside autism researcher Georgia Pavlopoulou, worked with autistic communities, exploring how important relationships are for people on the autistic spectrum.

  • You can read more about Flow Unlocked in this piece.

5. H Is For Hostile Environment: This is a partnership between artist Edwin Mingard, interdisciplinary historian Keren Weitzberg and people in east London who have been oppressed by the border policies instituted by the UK Home Office.

As curator Rosie Murdoch says:

"the works that have come out of this extraordinary year are really powerful, passionate and eye-opening. They tell the stories of our neighbours that we might never hear otherwise and reveal things about our neighbourhood that we might never have known." 

To explore Trellis festival further, this essay in FAD magazine offers a deep exploration of each project. It highlights the themes that underpin the festival as well as the work generated by the projects - such as mapping people and places, participation and the power of community.