am i here
is created by residents of a condemned housing estate in London. It was sent anonymously to the 20 London MPs who took part in a debate in Parliament. Residents of the estate were each given copies of the Parliamentary Hansard debate of May 5th. During this debate, MPs debated the condition and future of social housing in London. Hansard is an important record of Parliament's opinions and decisions but rarely scrutinised by ordinary people outside of the Westminster bubble. This artwork gives an opportunity for ordinary people to interpret and impose their own democracy at a time when housing benefit is being slashed, long-term security of tenure is under threat, homelessness is rising, and London's poorest face systematic extermination from the inner city. A worrying future feared by politicians of all stripes. Residents were given a black marker pen and invited to redact (black out) every word in the debate that didn't convey their opinions and worries. In doing so, they inject new meaning in the words used to define their futures. It is the opposite of MPs expenses, where all the important information was redacted from their bills, receipts and invoices. Here, the play of broken text, solid and void, black and white, conveys the stark difference between the beliefs and opinions of politicians defining policy and residents' actual experiences. The 20 MPs that receive this artwork will see the words from their speeches transformed. Every shroud, strike through and slash of text is a cathartic release from residents keen to express their own representation. If only they had such power and control over their own lives. With every stroke of the pen, the power over them would collapse before their eyes.
here i am
is a set of haiku poems assembled from the words of six residents of the Haggerston Estate. A haiku is a poetic form which follows a 5-7-5 syllabic structure, traditionally offered as a gift among Japanese people. here i am depicts life on the estate, oriented between past and present, and hinting beyond. The economy of words used to comprise each verse kindles recognition and estrangement and encourages reflection.A reflection of residents' everyday lives told through their own words.
here am i
is a provocation to L&Q, the social landlord charged with rebuilding the Haggerston Estate, to incorporate both the achievable and aspirational. Whenever a housing estate is constructed, tenants receive a handbook from their new landlords which outlines their responsibilities to the estate. here am i reverses this traditional hierarchy. The Haggerston Estate has a rich and complex history exemplified in the recent installation i am here. The artwork has proven to be more than mere window dressing. Since it has glared defiantly to others outside, residents within no longer feel estranged from their own sense of place. They share a collective identity and inspiration to imagine and intervene. They have reclaimed a sense of ownership and pride over the last remaning courtyard of the estate. It is not about social inclusion or community participation, being active or passive, but egalitarianism. Everyone now has equal opportunity to intervene. Free to reinterpret and reuse the space as they wish. The majority of residents eagerly await their new flats. The consultation and design process is open and inclusive, but not ambitious enough. And as a result residents fear some the implications of the future development. That open spaces will be too predetermined, whose functions are already closed off. That their actions and behaviours will be too controlled, no longer free to express themselves outside of the confines of their flats. That corrosive anonymity may return to the estate and become all the more visible and palpable. The two maps included below allow residents to identify their values and desires. To highlight precisely what is missing from the plans now, and speculate what could be.
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