Monday, October 05, 2015

Artists’ and Cultural Workers’ Dinner: Cultural Work and Urban Displacement



During the ArtLicks weekend, alongside Nomad School and Houserules' new project The Guided Tour Daniella Valz Gen and myself hosted Artists’ and Cultural Workers’ Dinner at the Field, a community space and a social centre at New Cross that I have been involved in since summer 2014.

We have cooked together dahl and a crumble. Admission fee included bringing drinks and fruit for pudding. Above is a photograph by artist Donna Riddington inscribed "Artists' hands preparing communal grub at The Field while discussing displaced communities across Peckham."


The programme of the dinner started from a walk beginning at Holly Bush Shrubbery at Peckham that was led by Daniella. 17 artists and cultural workers attended a conversation that started shortly after a walk, cooking and having a dinner together. Different opinions were raised and heavy disagreements emerged. Further I would list questions and statements that I have noted down during the conversation. 

Statements:
Developers are not interested in artists, but creative professionals and their disposable incomes who come alongside.
Cutting though social classes artists have access to different people and spaces or know how to get it.
It is planned that by 2033 there would be no council estates in London.
Problem is the undemocratic planning policy that is not controlled by people who live in the city.
Regeneration is about moving social problems to other places.
Community is about sharing space.
People who make change are desperate.
All areas of London have community hubs, this is how local communities can be joined.

Questions:
Why are we [artists] attractive to developers?
Is this about blame or rather accepting our position as artists?
Maybe gentrification is not a bad thing really?
Do we have a choice?
Do we have time for political interventions?
Are there better ways to create?
What are different communities around us? How to engage with local community?
What can artists offer to local community that faces displacement?
Would artist become a social worker?
Is artist the one who points at things?
Should artist jump a fence and become a community activist?
Is being ethical a hard work?
Is that a question of having to go and find community? Building relations with the community?
Are art practice and social work polar opposites?
Is there a  drive to abandon aesthetic practice and take art practice into different direction?
Can our practice include all several aspects, being socially responsive and self-reflexive at the same moment?

I am so very grateful for the contribution of ideas, time and presence of artists who came to share food and space and be open and honest about their positions and knowledge about processes we are living though. The Field became instrumental in opening this conversation that brings together artistic work and political. Hosting a dinner there reassured me again that working alongside community activists and caring for the space is somehow unarguably important for my understanding of my own practice, and to some extent of roles that artists could have in the community.

There were multiple calls to continue conversation that had started that evening, we'll have to see what we can do.