Some questions have been floating around in my head concerning my project for Body of Work so far. These questions are based around how/if it relates to regeneration and these questions inevitably lead to more questions! I have therefore jotted some of them down in an attempt to provide answers to at least a few of them.
Am I inadvertently contributing to gentrification by making these images? They are independent so these images do not contribute to artwashing as it is not commissioned by a company or corporation associated with gentrification.
The project might appear in an exhibition/photo book where local people would see the images and try to contextualise them. What messages are my images giving out and what kind of people would visit the exhibition/read the book?
People like family/friends/fellow students who have looked at the diptychs so far have commented on the use of people within the images. They have largely concurred that it creates a sense of community – am I giving out a message that community is still prevalent in Deptford even with the displacement of local people through gentrification? In my head, this would be an example of where my images are not reflecting the real costs of regeneration/gentrification and potentially misconstruing information to the viewer.
Also, people who have given feedback have commented that yes, the project shows change within these locations but is it drastic enough change? Does it show regeneration or just smaller scale change? If my project does indeed only show smaller scale change then will it make enough impact on the viewer/people who are critically engaged with the topic of regeneration? One theory I have been thinking about is managed decline where places are deliberately neglected (by the council) so places can be authorised to be regenerated by the council/companies linked to the council. Some of my images show this kind of change so it could potentially be a link from smaller scale change to regeneration.
The people who are likely to visit the exhibition/look at the photo book might be more likely to be of the ‘yuppie’ demographic. This is mainly a hunch but also backed up my experience watching a certain film by Zed Nelson called The Street (2019). This was for me a very moving and poignant documentary tale of regeneration and gentrification occurring along one particular street in Hoxton. Near the end of the film there is a scene where there is a gallery showing art where to me it seems only a certain demographic is visiting. There is a character in the film who lives in very poor quality housing and he stares through the window imagining the art gallery as his home. This is a very powerful shot and possesses strong narrative but that is mostly besides my point. My point is that the demographic visiting the exhibition seemed to me to be largely of one kind. I don’t personally think the art within the gallery was good or at least I didn’t ‘get it’ and some of the ways Nelson frames the shots I think references this. If my work is exhibited in a gallery I would like for people of many demographics/backgrounds to visit and to display work that entices the viewer to look. At the moment my work is quite literal so I’m trying to remedy this, perhaps with the use of text. However, I do want (the variety of) people visiting to get something from the work and also I hope for the work not to inadvertently contribute to gentrification. One way in which I could get a variety of people to visit the exhibition/look at the photo book is to make sure the work is promoted within the wider community.
At the moment I feel my project is leaning to showing change can and does happen all the time in Deptford (and so by extension other communities/areas). The people in contrast, for the most part stay resolute/change less. This latter part of potential meaning for my work is brought about by the use of composites where the people appear in the same place within both parts of the diptych. I think this is a strong message the viewer could pick up on by looking closely at the diptychs. There is one problem I can see with this argument and that is: on one side of each diptych the person is different from the other side of the diptych where a different person now takes their place. Yes, they are in the same position within the frame of the image but of course since time has passed, the people have changed. I can see this being misread as people being displaced within the community which is totally different to my first message. Thinking about this, I quite like the work allowing for multiple interpretations but I’m not sure about them being opposing messages.
I feel glad I have written down these thoughts and questions because although they have led to more questions and thoughts, I may have answered some of them. I am pretty sure my work is not artwashing because it is independent and I have created arguments or at least ideas for how my work could be interpreted that would create discourse for the viewer regarding regeneration/change. I have also established I would like a broad demographic to visit the exhibition/look at the photo book. This is so that many types of people could engage with the work which might enlighten people to consequences of regeneration/change in any area (not only Deptford).
Nelson, Z. (2019) The Street. At: https://www.thestreetfilm.co.uk/ (Accessed 27/02/2020).
The Street (2019) Directed by Nelson, Z. [Cinema] London: Verve Pictures Ltd.