Debate at Arebyte

Libby Heaney

March 2016: More is Different elective were in residency at Arebyte Gallery in Hackney Wick for the final brief of the term.  During the residency the students were asked to treat the gallery as a studio space and produce practice-based research investigating the systems and networks involved in the gentrification of the Hackney Wick area.  For provocation the students were given a text by Josephine Berry, Everyone is not an Artist: Autonomous Art and the Neoliberal City, which examines autonomous art as a propaganda tool for gentrification with a specific focus on the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Park.

Since the Olympics, it is indisputable that East London has changed beyond recognition.  Fridge mountain has disappeared and most areas cleaned up.  So what could a group of Royal College of Art students add to the on-going commentary surrounding the development?  And how could these young artists and designers reasonably and sensitively comment on and critique the changes as outsiders?

To kick things off, the residency began with a debate with Adriana Marques, head of arts and culture in Queen Elizabeth Park and part of London Legacy Development Corporation, local resident and architect Richard Brown, Nimrod Vardi Arebyte Gallery director and of course the More is Different students and lecturers.

Adriana went through the Hackney Wick and Fish Island ten year development plan and spoke about how the London Legacy Development Corporation was attempting to accommodate the needs of existing residents, creatives and small businesses as the gentrification process took hold.  Adriana also spoke in depth about the art she commissioned as part of the Olympics that responded to the local area.

On the other side of the table was Richard Brown, an architect and local resident.  Richard spoke about a published survey he conducted about the self-build live-work movement in Hackney Wick and Fish Island and detailed the challenges faced by the community.

Georgia Ward Dyer reflects on the day

We all concluded that the situation was far more complex than we all imagined.  From the Berry text we had all made assumptions about what the relationship between the LLDC and the local people was.  However, after meeting Adriana and hearing about how closely they work with people like Richard and Nimrod, we all had new perspectives on the degree of existing and ongoing dialogue.

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