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Curator Questions

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Walls on Walls by Elly Clarke

Charlie: This idea of getting communities to actually look at the walls and spaces around them, to engage with the physicality of their space and to not ignore what keeps a roof over their heads is a brilliant project for residents of Camden, how do you get people on board and what are the next steps?

Walls on Walls: By talking to people - face to face. Our first thing is to visit the estates and meet the TRAs to get a sense of what life is like on the estates. We want to get the heart of why people like living there, the diversity of its residents, get their background on the history of life on the estate and its surrounding buildings. We also want to understand the challenges they might face and how working on an art project that encourages involvement from a wide range of residents might help to build even stronger communities. There will be lots of cups of tea and biscuits and talking - talking and listening here is key. By making our presence known - attending resident meetings, having days on site - giving people the chance to know and trust in us and encouraging people to sign up to what will be a really fun project - getting them to take value and pride in helping to brighten up their estate. We want to hear what they have to say, understand their challenges, but focus our efforts on the ways we can positively engage with the estate - using our installation as a tool to engage and work towards the restoration of a community spirit. We will take the time to explain the context of Walls on Walls and why it’s relevant to them. We will then start to recruit residents of the estate communities to explore local, historic walls as inspiration. Together they will begin to examine walls both on and off site that are often overlooked or undervalued, encouraging people to consider their surroundings with fresh eyes and appreciate their environment from a different perspective. We will guide participants through a process of image research, artistic referencing and visual development to explore and re-interpret this visual aesthetic for their own spaces before collectively deciding on an appropriate montage. The project will culminate in the creation of the final piece: an abstracted collage painted onto designated walls within the estate.

Charlie: For Camden 50 these new works of art made by residents are being accompanied by sound pieces, what is its function and how are they made?

Walls on Walls: As well as taking visual inspiration from the walls of the surrounding area, we want to know what stories those walls hold. Like we already said, listening is a key element to this project. The sound pieces will begin by sitting down and recording chats with residents from across the estates - another excuse for tea and biscuits. We’ll also be listening to and recording the “ambient soundscape” - the kind of sounds that happen everyday: traffic, birds, people, machines. Perhaps people don’t listen to them directly, but these types of sounds can really define the character of a place. Also, we’ll be recording the sounds of the artwork being made and participants explaining how it makes sense to them. The final sound pieces will be another montage: a composed documentary which can be heard alongside the visual artwork. All of this recording, editing and sound composing will be done by the participant group, guided by us. The sound pieces will tell the story of the old walls, the new artwork the area, the people who make it. The idea is that you might stop for a couple of minutes and listen on your mobile phone as you walk past and see the new Walls on Walls work.

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Charlie: What are the outcomes for Walls on Walls not just the residents?

Walls on Walls: We aim to encourage everyone who encounters the pieces to look, listen and absorb their surroundings with fresh eyes and ears, and to consider the historic beauty and rich history hidden in the everyday details of their local walls.. Each work distills and reflects the changing essence of our contemporary urban environment which is to be experienced by visitors and residents alike. By completing several of these artworks we want to create an art trail based on the different walls in the different areas of the borough - we hope that these might become destination pieces perhaps included in walking tours for the general public etc.

Charlie: What is the dream for the next 50 years for these interventions, what do you want their long term impact to be?

Walls on Walls: Our project uses art as a stepping stone towards resident engagement and reconciliation using exploration into the aesthetics and social challenges of their estate as our process. Our long term aim is to support Councils and Developers in their effort to break down social barriers or to overcome issues within communities - using local history and future prospects as that catalyst. By providing a focal point on the estate we aim for residents to improve run down areas and share the experience of collectively creating a work of art as a way to improve communication and positive spirit amongst sometimes fragmented communities. We actively seek out the areas that could do with some improvement and perhaps areas that are being misused as a way to draw attention to the beauty we can bring to the mundane - the walls we explore become a metaphor for this. We hope the walls become time capsules - capturing periods in time, fragments of an area - and how they have become what they become.

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