Past moments of interaction

On the basis that everyday life is art, the work in progress of Streets of… was screened in various venues in London and abroad as a trigger to provoke questions and reflections in the audience. It was during a conversation with Lois Keidan at Live Art Development Agency in September 2009 that I decided to call these moments of public interactions the Living Archaeology of the Place.

Since then the concept has evolved into a wider framework of public engagement. The artistic activities connected to the production of Streets of Tangier, Streets of Shanghai and Streets of Lisbon were delivered in consultation with inter-generational groups made up of people from the Portuguese, Moroccan and Chinese communities in London and the three cities abroad.

As a starting point for the creation of the Living Archaeology of the Place I referred to the responses provided by members of the public who attended the screenings of the work in progress in Autumn 2009 and Winter 2010. Below is a selection of their responses to the five questions I posed to the public.

1 – Did you know the streets represented in the work before? How do you feel about them now?

“No, I didn’t. Not in the way they are showed in the movie. I feel like I love them more after the watch, as I get more familiar and don’t feel afraid of them anymore, even though all that places are connected to stereotypical “dangers” (Naples, Salvador before Mumbay).”
Alessandro, student (93 Feet East)

“Thinking back to the event now, I have a memory of the places represented in the work which is not dissimilar to that of places I have actually visited in real life – even though I have never been to Salvador or Mumbai – interesting & somewhat surprising effect.”
Alexander, Head of Development, (The Boys Hall)

“Although it is an old cliché that Italians speak with their hands, the images show that it is a veritable art! I guess you tried to present the flexible waist of the Bahianas – again a stereotype, but again your shootings suggest how much is part of everyday life.”
Matthias, Professor of History (Inn on the Green)

“I’m fascinated by the sound of the streets, by the movements and flow of people.”
Giulia, photographer (Boys Hall)

“I thought that the images in the film on Mumbai were, on the whole, an unsentimental, non- judgemental representation of the complexity and wonder of human existence. The film managed to elevate my memories of Mumbai to a sharper, almost surreal level of reality.”
Errol, writer (The Roxy Bar and Screen)

“I loved how I felt I was ‘in’ those scenes, I could almost touch and smell the scenes in the film as if a door had opened and invited me in. (…) I didn’t know much about Salvador until I saw this film and I had a taste of its past history and present life today, its unique strong links to African culture can be seen everywhere, the people themselves, their movements with the carnival dancing scenes, the historical statues of the African Warriors, the people living in the slums it was brilliant, I thought it was captured very well. It gave that whole sense of power and strength, you could feel it.”
Dennis, musician/shop assistant (Inn on the Green)

2 – Are there any similarities between the streets from your home town and the streets of London?

“Dalston Streets are the same. People live, chat, watch, hang around, socialize in the streets. This is unusual in Northern Europe.”
Jiva, performance artist (The Boys Hall)

“Certain areas of London have the same sense of community, relationships and interaction between people. Notting Hill Carnival is a transformation that also mirrors the sense of community and pride that is evident in the video.”
MC, year 10 student

“Yes, there is a very lively atmosphere which can be seen not just on the streets of London but in most cities during festivals. It takes more than money to have a good festival/event.”
Dapo, year 10 student

“No because in London there is little time to enjoy the moment in a spontaneous way, although you do get glimpses of people’s interactions and the human spirit does manage to overcome cultural barriers and connect when people are receptive.”
Elisabeth, linguist (Inn on the Green)

“Another thought which arose after this screening was that there is today an erosion of the street culture in London, in that we tend to conduct fewer social interactions in the open air than we might have in the past.”
Jeff, writer (The Boys Hall)

3 – What body movement identifies your culture?

“The one cheek kiss (very English) or touching the face, maybe the lips (English people sometimes hold back from speaking) or hand shaking.”
Mandee, artist (The Boys Hall)

“Chipping” is the half-dance, half-walk you use when you are in a crowd at Carnival. It’s quite possible to keep it up all day and thereby traverse the marathon-like distances the average parade route expects of you, yet still feel that all you are doing is dancing to the music. Another reason for choosing this movement is that your excellent video pieces put me in mind not only of the Italian roots of Caribbean Carnival but also of the distinct influence of Indian forms of expression on Mas.”
Jeff, writer (The Boys Hall)

“Squatting, love it. Good for the back too. Though coming from a relatively anglocised family it was frowned upon.”
Jiva, performance artist (The Boys Hall)

“The culture that I currently live in is all about pace: there is a sharpness in the movement and a tension in the body and the voice – I feel this ripples through my own body – my body is always as if a coiled spring – high octane physicality to match the high octane environment.”
Kristine, theatre director (The Boys Hall)

“Facial expressions, posture and walking are probably the most evident body movements in my culture.”
Roger, business director (The Boys Hall)

4 -If you could mark your relationship to this work in any ways what would you choose, a note, a voice recording, a video, a gift, a memory…?

“The videos put me in touch with ancestral and archetypal aspects of everyday life and practices, recognizable everywhere.”
Elena, cultural geography lecturer (The Boys Hall)

“It is a memory – memories as a matter of fact – I remember being in Italy – not Naples, but feeling the possilbility of life and the future – I remember Mumbai and the possibility of life and the future – in your film, in all three cities, watching it – gave me that same feeling again – of the possibility that life presents.”
Kristine, Theatre Director (The Boys Hall)

“I identified myself with the streets of Salvador (…) The memory I have from the Streets of Salvador is the strong presence of the Yoruba culture, the candomblè with all its orixas and babalorixas and the music played with atabaques in the street of Pelourinho. The “Sociedade Recreativa Filhos de Ghandi” where i spent 4 hours inside, with music and people going into a trance… and it seemed I was there only 30 minutes… All those saints, African culture and beliefs make Salvador still magic.”
Luciano, Brazilian musician (Inn on the Green)

“The work identifies emotionally and psychically with ‘the people’ which gives it ultimately a radical viewpoint. The lens of the camera seems more revealing and truthful than ‘reality’ seen through your own eyes.”
Errol, writer (The Roxy Bar and Screen)

5 – Is there any question you would like to ask?

“Where will the children play?” Inspired by the boys playing with dirt in Mumbai, I ask, where will children be able to be children once every single square meter is built up in London?”
Elisabeth, linguist (Inn on the Green)

“What was your inspiration for the musical style in the film? I love the way it is sync’d up with the footage.”
Francesca, musician/cellist (Inn on the Green)

“What were the techniques that went into creating a film that was so much more than just pointing a camera at crowds of people? What was the approach to the splicing together of the footage in the editing process? How was the music chosen? There is an art form involved obviously, but it is difficult to pin down and analyse.”
Errol, writer (The Roxy Bar and Screen)

“Is this questions and answers giving you a point about this work or it’s the base for the next one? :)
Alessandro, student (93 Feet East)

“Are you planning to do something about London too?”
Giulia, photographer (The Boys Hall)

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