For my Body of Work, I plan to chronicle the final days of The Nomadic Community Gardens, creating a rich narrative as an extended portrait of a place.
The Nomadic Community Gardens, Fleet St Hill, London E1 5ES, is a “meanwhile” space and an experiment in social regeneration. The area is owned by developers but has been derelict for years. During this ‘meanwhile’ waiting period for the planning permission process, it is being curated by a not-for-profit group dedicated to ‘breathing life into dead spaces’.
As well as a vibrant centre for the street art community, the Nomadic Community Gardens is a place of hope and inclusion, against the looming spectre of a post-Brexit London. It is a tiny messy corner of the city, built from wooden pallets and recycled truck tyres; a place of contemplation and escape from the daily grind. A colourful oasis where you can sit around a fire and talk with strangers, read a book or listen to music, dance, smoke, drink beer or wine or coffee. Everyone is welcome.
The inevitable development of luxury apartments on the land casts a shadow. The clock is ticking loudly and the NCG team will only have two months to vacate once notice is served. But the regulars take it in their stride and enjoy each visit as much as possible, living in the moment. The gardens are ‘nomadic’ because everything is portable and can be moved to another location.
This is work is located loosely within the genre of psychogeography as the work will be a direct response to the physical space and the effects it has on the emotions and behaviours of the people who spend time there.
The initial images I have made are straight documentary but I would like to develop much more creative, multi-media ways of exploring the space and its denizens. I have been deliberately shooting during late afternoon/early evening and in the sunshine whenever possible. This conveys the festival atmosphere but also, hopefully, the idea that time is running out.
Weigh them well …. Behold yon band,
Students drinking by the door,
Madly merry, bock in hand,
Saucers stacked to mark their score.
Get you gone, you jolly scamps;
Let your parting glasses clink;
Seek your long neglected lamps:
It is later than you think.
From It’s Later Than You Think by Robert W Service
Genre: where will this work be located in the mind of the viewer and what will their expectations be? Will it be seen as documentary or street or portraiture? Within the genre, do I want to satisfy expectations or confound? It is not my intention to shock or unsettle the audience and I definitely don’t want my work to be any kind of exposé. I would like the viewer to be intrigued and beguiled, to see the beauty and the benefits of the space, to feel a connection to the community as a reminder of the primal urge to sit around a campfire with other humans.
Format: I plan to use a multi-media approach to reflect the junkyard aesthetic. This will also help to capture the richness of the subject material through the use of text, audio, archival materials, drawings, video and possibly even ‘found’ photographs. This should provide an engaging journey for the viewer and a multi-faceted biography of the space. A key element will be how best to present the idea of temporality/transience. The gardens are a fragmented and battered urban stage set; well-worn, repurposed, covered over, peeled away, ever-changing.
Outcome: I would like this work to portray my response to the encounters within this unique ‘meanwhile’ space, the landscape and the community and how it can be looped back into the environment – perhaps even exhibiting my images within the gardens.
There are a few strong images here but not much coherence as a set. I would like to create links between the images to help string together the visual story. I suspect the portraits may need more environmental context although a diptych or triptych approach or poignant juxtapositions may achieve a more interesting result. The set captures some of the chaos and colour of the gardens, and the interesting characters, but there is nothing like a clear narrative here yet.