THIS CITY’S CENTRE (2013)
A digital triptych for Exeter… and cities everywhere.
‘What kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be’
David Harvey, Rebel Cities
Context: vistas and dreams, privatisation of city centre spaces, residents as citizen artists, gentle trespass, digital intimacy and surveillance.
We had read Anna Minton’s writing on increasing privatisation in British cities in which she quotes – the more people you know that live within a 10 minute walk of your home, the safer you feel. Our idea was to use art making processes to try and make the city centre of Exeter feel like more of a neighbourhood. Developing out of our previous experience of devising with live video, sound and online media, we wanted to use digital technology as part of this process: to enable conscious, generous and creative connections between people and the places they live.
Based on interviews with 40 city centre residents about the views from their windows, this dispersed, digital portrait of Exeter uses a range of social and participatory art practice, to gently explore the meeting points of public and private space. We worked with associate artists, students and Exeter residents to make This City’s Centre in three main parts – 1. Window, a two channel video installation, 2. Linger, an interactive map and 3. Here, Now, a performance held in an empty, city centre office space with live webcam streaming from the homes of community participants. During the development of the work we experienced and shared life in This City’s Centre from new and surprising angles – from the privacy of other people’s homes – through other people’s eyes. Inviting us to think more deeply about how daily life in this … and any British provincial city, can shape us, provoke us, define us.
Photography: Benjamin J Borley
Poster series for This City’s Centre 3. Here, Now.
Photography: Benjamin J Borley
- February 2013 Project launched with a crowd sourced image collection of window views curated in terms of their relation to the distance from Exeter city centre.
- 6pm, 21 March – Public meeting Exeter Phoenix. Find out how to get more involved in This City’s Centre.
- Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd March 2013 5 Minutes Dreaming… a mobile bay window street intervention researching city centre views as part of NOSE
- Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd March 2013 Guerilla screenings – Video edits of a selection of window views were simultaneously screened at the Bikeshed Theatre, The Living Room (Polsloe Rd), Hanger 124 and Off the Hook in Fore St, Exeter Community Centre as part of NOSE
- 1pm, Thursday 6 June 2013 Performance fragments and live views at the Bikedshed Theatre1pm, Thursday 6 June 2013 as part of IGNITE
- 23 July – 22 Sept 2013 Part 1. Window. Video installation at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
- 21 Aug 2013 Part 2. Linger. Public map action in Exeter city centre to launch the interactive city walk.
- Screenings 10 Aug weekly until mid September 2013. Micro-documentaries hit the streets/online. A collaboration with David Salas as part of Exeter Phoenix Film Bursary programme.
- 13 September 2013 Private Views and Public Art. A public talk at RAMM about the making of the 1. Window installation with Volkhardt Müller and Professor John Wylie.
- 17-21 September 2013 Part 3. Here, Now. Digital performance in a third floor office space in St Stephen’s House Princesshay as part of UNEXPECTED, Exeter City Council’s Festival of Outdoor Arts.
- 12th & 13th December 2013 Digital Documentaries screening as part of Two Short Nights at Exeter Phoenix.
- 31st January 2015 i-audiences symposium – a presentation on This City’s Centre by Paula Crutchlow as part of a discussion on the effect of communication technologies on the experiences and expectations of theatre audiences. University College Falmouth, Penyrn Campus, 9.30am-1pm
Funded by: Arts Council England, Exeter City Council and Arts & Culture at University of Exeter.
Supported by: RAMM, Exeter Phoenix, Unexpected Exeter, Exeter College, I-DAT at University of Plymouth, Guildhall Shopping Centre, Princesshay.
WHAT WAS SAID
“It’s the scope and ambition of this project, the technical adventurousness, the collaborative and participatory ethos embedded in its very being that make it such a success. And just as the digital aspect is intrinsic to its narrative and structure, so is the sense of hope – the potential for change, for us to build the city we want, to be who we want to be. ”
“Intelligent work with heart. It’s also daring and I love being a part of this.”
“I appreciated the sensitivity and complexity of this project and performance, which managed both to represent a city and to acknowledge the limitations of that representation. It made no assumptions about who city dwellers might be and it prompted us to think about the city as we know it and also to consider the possible cities that are all Exeter but as yet unknown to us. It was highly skilled in its execution, bringing together a great production and performance team.”
“The experience of talking openly about my view led to a self awareness of things I had hidden from myself. So I guess I unexpectedly gained a lot out of it.”
“I’ve never been involved in an art project before from in front of the camera of easel, and this I thought was a very special and unique way of portraying the city and her residents.”
“An imaginative and original response to the city itself… a project of scale that created a real ‘buzz’ across a range of different communities in Exeter and the wider region… it puts a marker down as one of the more important things I’ve seen in Exeter in the last few years.”
“Intelligent way of working with participation across the city and the way participants have been encompassed by Blind Ditch team is a model of good practice that I won’t forget in a hurry.”
“As strange as it sounds it was a great way to think about my role within the city and how it affects her citizens. I certainly became aware of some ideas that I hadn’t realised before. I also felt a sense of being in the city and through the interview, a greater affinity with than I had.”
“By hearing the voices of your neighbours, of people who have walked the same stretch of pavement over and again, just like you, and having their ideas, opinions and thoughts flow into your ears as you contemplate the exact same view that inspired those thoughts, you just might – as I did – feel increasingly connected to the people around you.”
“By inviting us inside people’s homes, it promises intimacy, yet remains largely outward-looking. The whole piece exploits this tension, comparing and contrasting the literal and figurative spaces of real city, filmed city and narrated city.”
“I like the project having other outputs besides the performance –this seemed to make it reach out into the city.”
“genre busting… technically impressive… a thrilling and stimulating experience that continues to provoke contemplation long after the performance has ended.”
“Most satisfying was the attempt to find the extraordinary in everything that’s around us,enabling us to see them afresh. A reflection on place, on belonging, in a physical sense and a ‘spiritual’ sense…this piece is very different.”
“This City’s Centre engaged performers as makers in a way that was inspiring to observe from the periphery, and will doubtless be beneficial to the long term development of Exeter’s developing performance community.”
“I believe performance like this can break down barriers.It can draw new audiences to art and make people realize that performance can be for everyone. This City’s Centre gave ordinary people ownership of a large-scale performance piece. You took the performance into the homes, quite literally.”
“Lyrical… intriguing… stimulating… thrilling… unmissable…”
Devised by Blind Ditch members Paula Crutchlow (director), John Drever (sound designer), Volkhardt Müller (scenography & videography), Cat Radford (producer) from an original idea by Volkhardt Müller.
The work was manifested in collaboration with associate artists and contributors: Stavros Didakis, Carla Hayes, Lee Hodges, Lizzie Humber, Tom Matthews, Jane Mason, Natalie McGrath, Philibert Patricot, Jonnie Rowden, David Salas, Phil Smith, Katie Villa, Tony Walker, John Wylie. With many thanks to The Big V, Exeter College Students: Lauren Berry, Leah Burt, Hannah Curwen, Benjamin Commins, and the 40 Exeter residents who shared their views with us.
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