Our house in the middle of our street
Our house in the middle of our street

Farewell Adam. Who left us this morning to get back to England to build his own Shangri-La and keep and eye on the ever-changing Shangi-lite of Lawson Park farm as it turns from ancient vision of rural past to supercontemporary vison of future rural, see http://www.lawsonpark.org/

It certainly marked a moment of transition in the project, not just a half way point as the managerial baton was passed on to me, but also a sense that the initial research phase is ending and the second stage of the project is to materialise in some form that will declare our serious intent to work with the village for a long term future.

There is a general atmosphere among the group that this is possible albeit daunting, possibky foolish, particularly as we understand the need to make a mark in the next 10 days before we all go back.

The difficulty here is in keeping an eye on the long term vision for the village whilst making sure we actually do something this week that the villagers will see as different from the previous art projects that have left so little legacy and on the whole have not delivered the social gain they promised. It’s interesting that the one project that did go down well in the village was the TWIG project a (from an artland perspective) excruciating manifestation of social-development-through-the-medium-of-dance school. For some choice physical dance theatre comedy have a look at http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/TWIG-project--Together-We-Integrate-Growth/

Whilst hilarious to the semi-educated smug like myself, these forms of unfashionable community art to have their value and in particular incarnations have a good effect within the short term, or in the long term as part of sustained programme of action. The children in Nanling clearly enjoyed these dance workshops and remember them well.

So we do find ourselves pulling out some of the old communidy art tricks where they can demonstrate a certain intent, whilst we plot a longer strategy that will hopefully be more useful in a bigger way. We are never going to sort out a great deal out in this limited time, but we can begin a process that will hopefully get the village to start to think about how it might control, or at least have a say in what lies ahead.

Harold’s proposed parade involves the children of the school making costumes that represent the stakeholders in the village, such as loggers, power plant workers, tourists, etc and will dance through the streets to link the two ideologies of the town, split by the river: Tourist world on one bank, old worker village on the other. The parade will also join two events: a typical car crash culture Grizedale performance of complex village life at one end and a proposal of future ideas at the other. This future world is presented at a market stall in the market square and a museum to houton life in an old house, tucked away from the main tourist schlep. Whilst the stall may or may not sell, it will encourage the idea that the village can present itself in new ways through product and re-presentation to the outside and itself. This also links in with the general projects of Grizedale and Vitamin to use traditional, lo-fi market place techniques to disseminate cultural material, but through an internationally connected network.

It should be noted that this idea of new emerging networks and activity outside the conventional frameworks of modernity (the museum, the city, the consensual mainstream etc) is now emerging as the new thing. Nicholas Bourriaud is coming on trend with his forthcoming book/concept on the Altermodern (see http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/tatetriennial/default.shtm) and the Guangzhou Triennial this September will be looking beyond the Post Colonial to presumably new paradigms of communication and representation, although it could be said the only way to go post-post colonial is to return to the colonial, which is maybe not so far from what is going on in China now as the earth’s cultural and economic polarity shifts away from the old west.

Worryingly we hear today form a houton (old village house) resident that the Forestry Commission plan to re-house the people who live in these older, traditional dwellings in new apartment blocks in a couple of years and bulldoze the these ramshackle homes. Whilst the new apartments are good, clean and spacious, even the younger inhabitants seem to prefer the communal life these open houses create. Not to mention that is this architecture that gives the village its character, and more importantly from a social and tourist potential point of view, it’s diversity. To us the maintenance of this culture and its architecture is key to any ecological approach, but it seems not here, not yet. If there is one thing we can influence, perhaps it is this.


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