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Market Estate Day 9: Shot 1, Take 2

Posted: February 28th, 2010

Today involved reconstructing a pile of objects much like yesterday. Mary dragging piles of debris and heavy objects back and forth while Blithe had to sit perfectly still for hours concentrating on the sights and sounds of the performance for video. Neither one of us envies the others part in this collaboration nor could we do it without the other.

We’ve chosen a concept that is very physically demanding which is becoming more apparent as the days continue.

We re-shot the video we made yesterday in order to see what it would be like in the rain. It was challenging because we were not only dealing with the exhausting work but were also cold and wet.

Once we had all the equipment set up we couldn’t leave the underbelly of the Market Estate so we ended up eating lunch in down there which meant we were there for over 6 hours.  We doubted the sanitation of these conditions.

It was well worth it because now we have two versions of a great video to choose from.

In general I’m really enjoying the broad range of experiences I’m having here. The office, remedy which is like a big community center is becoming very busy with different artists coming in and out. Faces are starting to become familiar and welcomed as some artist are working on site as much as we are. Everyday it seems as if I meet someone new. I like being able to take a few minutes to learn a bit about them and to chat about what they are working on and

The sheer amount of time that we have here to focus on exploring this site and making work in response is quite a gift. We talked tonight about not knowing how long we could keep this up but really enjoying it in this moment.

Tomorrow we will be working on another video involving the transportation of objects through the giant hole we cut into the fence next to the Market Estate.

The hole has been a source of anxiety because we do not want the teenagers that have been somewhat troublesome around the Estate to decide to explore where it leads. We’ve had to be very vigilant about boarding ourselves in when we are working below as well as closing the hole as soon as we are done working.

We have less than a week left to complete two more videos that we would like to shoot. It’s crunch time but I think we are more than up for this challenge.

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Market Estate Day 8: Shot 1, Take 1

Posted: February 27th, 2010

Entire day spent under the Market Estate. We made a lot of progress and are very excited about this piece. We’re completely exhausted. Our day is best described through 90 minutes of video that we’re not ready to show just yet.

For now here are some images of what we’re working on.

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Market Estate Day 8: This is getting real.

Posted: February 26th, 2010

PLANS FOR TODAY:

-Get up early

-Run a very long extension cord out of a 2nd story flat over a driveway, recipe a fence and down into the belly of the Market Estate.

-We planned for rain and actually decided that it was essential to the piece.  It was a safe bet since it’s rained most every day since we’ve gotten here.

-Set up lighting and shoot the first part of our three channel video.

-We also hoped to get a construction worker on site to cut a large hole into a wooden fence for us for a later shoot.

REALITY:

-We get up early…. to an amazingly beautiful and sunny day. We wait, generic we plan, cialis we do other things.  The sun shines.  The shoot is postponed.

-The construction worker only has a grinder and cannot possibly cut our hole. We do however get official permission to cut the said hole.  That is a bonus.

Noon hits.  We’re frustrated that nothing goes as planned and wonder if these videos are going to happen.

THEN:

-Gadi not only locates but buys us a jigsaw saving us hours and more frustration.

-Mary cuts the hole herself while wearing Blithe’s furry gloves, which is slightly demeaning.

-We marvel out the gigantic hole until the notorious teens who hang out at the Estate begin to marvel with us.  We decide that we need to cover the opening asap as to not entice them to enter the space where we have already began setting up for our shoot.  We nail boards back over the hole until the rain comes and we can begin working.  Fingers are crossed that this will happen tomorrow.

In the meantime we realize that this rare sunny day may actually have given us an opening to shoot the modified version of an earlier video that needed a lot of improvements.

We quickly set up for the shoot, the sun holds out and by 6pm we are watching the footage at our new editing station in the offices.  We ended up getting some quite successful and unexpected work done today.

Day 7

We are exhausted but adrenaline and the exciting potential of this project will continue to push us through.

This is getting real.

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Market Estate Day 7: So many pants. A near move & delicious foods.

Posted: February 25th, 2010

Life stays exciting here at Market Estate.

We started the day by hitting the full row of charity shops in Camden, looking for performance outfits. Mary tried on so many pants she could no longer stand. We finally found something that fit, and then made our way to the hardware store to buy work clothes. We found out English jumpsuits sport very tightly cinched waists. How that is manly or tough, we do not know. Mary skipped the jumpsuit and went for the neon rain pants. We got dressed in our new duds and headed under the building to work.

And work we did. We amassed a huge pile of objects for our video, part one of which we plan to shoot tomorrow. We lifted tires, furniture, old clothes, suitcases, toys, among other things. Blithe accidentally grabbed something really really gross lurking in the dark. Fortunately it was hard and old (we’ll let your imagination fill in the rest).

We asked Gadi about some necessary electricity and saws to complete our idea. He is very willing to help us do things that are logistically a stretch. This spirit is so nice to work with as it allows us to take our ideas to a level of detail that we wouldn’t otherwise.

Early evening we made our way back to our flat to be greeted by our resident teens who reminded us that they are the true owners of these buildings and we are the squatters. They have become more present recently and seem agitated by the activity that’s happening. In response the organizers have decided to “absorb” their actions, rather then try to run them off the Estate or call the police (previous tactics). There is some concern that they will continue to bother us, so we may end up moving out of our flat to another spot in the Estate. While nobody thinks the kids are a real threat, there is a fear of their unpredictability or what they may do. This is also interesting to us, since this kind of fear seems to be a persistent condition described by neighbors and previous tenants. Moving isn’t exactly desirable, but may be the most practical. We will know more in the next day or so.

We ended the evening with a delicious home cooked meal by Laura and Matthew, volunteers for the project who we met our first day here during our outdoor tea. After reading our blog and seeing our space heater, they reached out with some much appreciated hospitality. Laura has studied city planning in London and offered a range of perspectives about the Estate system London and the idea of socialized housing in general. Matthew gave us an overview of city government and how politics changed under Margaret Thatcher. We ate Indian food and peach cobbler. It was wonderful to feel so welcomed and we are so pleased with our new friends.

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Market Estate: 6th Day… Shopping, Hating, and Loving

Posted: February 24th, 2010

Today was up and down. We started the day by looking for performance outfits at H & M, what we figured was the sweatyist shop we could find to get matching solids. Mary got a bad ass gender and color neutral outfit, which made her feel good.

We ate a traditionally crappy British lunches, strangely toasted meat sandwich with tasteless ham, and a BLT that tasted like ham. Then the daily trek to our rock, the delicious and thrifty polish bakery for apple turnovers and fresh bread.

We tested video shots with the grey outfit, and then came back to watch that test, as well as the other footage we have shot over the past couple days. The footage was… well… boring.

The gray outfit blended into the background of the Estate and Mary looked like a little gray blob floating across the screen, doing unclear blobby things. Blithe fell asleep to her own footage. Mary sighed a lot, looking hard for the meaning in it all. (Note: if you have to look that hard, it just might not be there). There was some tension in the air.

And then we had tea.

We talked about what we had and what we wanted. We made lots of drawings, moved around furniture to simulate shots, and made some diagrams. Eventually we came up with two sketches for different but related pieces, one focusing on the underbelly of the building (which has a endurance performance flair) and another spicing up the shots we were already working with (adding some filmic drama). We are both really excited.

Tomorrow. Thrift stores. Our revised ideas require us to get extremely filthy. We need work clothes. More tests, possibly saws and wire cutters (Gadi if you are reading this, don’t worry, or better yet, don’t ask).

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Market Estate: Day 5: Under the Estate

Posted: February 24th, 2010

Today we explored under the Estate. When we first arrived we noticed a construction area beside of Market Estate. It looked as if there was a portion of the Estate held up on columns and this was the flooded open basement of sorts. Visually it immediately caught our attention and we put it on our list for future exploration.

After borrowing some rubber boots we went to check out the site in the snow and rain. We discovered that this must have been a storage area for the residents. There are numbered metal cages that have been left open and exposed to the elements. One side is a brick wall while the other is completely open. Pictures will best explain this. The concrete floor is flooded and water drips from the grates above. There is natural and man-made detritus littering the space. It’s perfect.

This is amazing…we both really responded to this aspect of the Estate and started shooting some test film right away. We experimented with moving through the space and conceptually considering what this “underground” location has to offer our project as a whole. After a few hours of this we then went back to what we worked on yesterday and shot more footage of ideas we formulated over dinner last night.

Today was a rather exciting day. Blithe ended it by spending time with her long time friend Annie while Mary met an artist Paulette Phillips who happened to be in London for a short time as well who was introduced by a friend. You should check out her work at at http://www.paulette-phillips.ca/

Tomorrow…the project is really starting to form. We need to find some “performance clothes” and start some serious shooting.

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Market Estate Day 4: First Recordings

Posted: February 22nd, 2010

We woke up to snow and rain. Our goal for today gain access to the roof on the building across from us. We spent a good portion of the day tracking down the caretaker, tadalafil who ended up being  extremely generous with his time as we walked all over the Estate, attempting to open secret doors that could lead to the roof. At the end, we found that the key we need does not exist. We are still determined to figure out a way to get up there, even if it requires a crowbar at a later date.

We then took the rest of the day to conduct a number of tests on video in the Estate corridors. We rigged our tripod to a dolly, and Mary walked at a variety of speeds, including sprinting up and down many stairs as Blithe yelled orders from 6 stories above and across a large parking lot. This exhausted us both, and we needed some alone time afterwords.

We reviewed our footage and were disappointed by some of the shots, excited by others. We will conduct more tests tomorrow, and will attempt to get under the foundation of the building as part of the Estate is elevated on columns.

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Market Estate: Tour of the Flats: Day 3

Posted: February 21st, 2010

We woke up to London rain and were reminded that we need to consider the weather as we be begin to work. Our plan today was to explore the interior of as many flats as we could.  The Market Estate Project planners have specific keys to each flat so we can only see a few at a time. We saw around 12 or so by 1pm. Many were in a state of total disrepair. However some were in almost perfect condition with wild wallpaper patterns and brightly colored carpets.

Gadi, one of the project coordinator’s, invited over for a great lunch of hummus and fava beans.  It was delicious, and a very nice tradition that they do every Sunday.

We had an interesting conversation about how the Estates operate in London (Estates are the UK’s term for our housing projects),  as well as the expectations and goals of the ME Projects. One thing that we understood is that the organizers view this project first and foremost as a service to artists, as a way to provide unique opportunities for the production of work. While they hope that the project will benefit the local community, that is not their primary motivation. We also learned that this Estate is currently owned by a private developer, and not the local government. This is the entire reason why we are allowed to be here and why there isn’t the same level of bureaucracy as with other Estates owned by the council.

Gadi referred to the developer as a kind of client, and its clear that he thinks that it’s important for the project to benefit the developer since they are providing the space. How? Through publicity that will hopefully entice new tenants in the flats that get built when the Estate is torn down. The buildings that will replace Market Estate will be rented out privately and will subsidize the new Estates that have been built next door, where the old residents have moved to. These new buildings seem quite nice and well maintained.

Needless to say, we also found out that public housing system in the UK is complicated. Some estates are owned by the local councils, others by private developers or third party entities that must adhere to a set of rules.  We need to learn more about this dynamic and Gadi hopes to introduce us to a few people that can illuminate on some of these facts. Will post more as we know.

Gadi then took us on a tour of some architectural details that were very surprising and specific to this building.

We spent most of the remaining day looking at flats and wondering the halls and walkways.

We bounced ideas off of each other considering visual and conceptual ways to take this project that excite us both. We brainstormed in the kitchen with tea, our space heater, and post-it notes on the wall.  We’re both totally exhausted but excited about the potential here.

We have a few clear ideas about shots and combinations of things that we want to move forward with. One of these involves the roof of the building opposite our flat. We plan to get access tomorrow!

More Photos:






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Market Estate Day 2: Tea Time

Posted: February 21st, 2010

Woke up to sun streaming through the window. Very jet-lagged and cold. Our mini heater/the campfire used up all our electricity this morning. Gadi took us to the store and showed us how to refill this little stick that we put in the meter. This electricity by the stick system kind of stinks, but it does make us very energy-conscious.

We went to Camden and bought a phone, a map, and slippers. Camden has an insane number of tourist stores, including a fine selection of goth paraphernalia. Mary almost bought a black and purple bustiere but I talked her out of it. (I can’t believe Blithe..she talked me out of it because she wanted it for herself!  -Mary)

The majority of our day was spent outside serving tea and talking with neighbors and market estate residents. We made a bulletin board where people could post their feelings about the Market Estate, and it proved to be a good conversation starter. Overall, the major thing that stood out for most of the people that we talked to is how dangerous and crime ridden the estate and parts of the neighborhood are. One neighbor called it a “Rock in Beirut.” People talked about fear of violence and how unsafe the building was in general. Most people seemed pleased that the building was being torn down. We also talked with a lot of teenagers and kids and many of them had the opposite feelings, for them the estate is a place where they can hide and do things they might not be allowed to do otherwise. The kids are also very territorial about this place, and make it clear that they feel like this place is theirs.



We also met a number of new fellow artists who are working on projects in the Estate. My long time friend Annie also came by and brought us banana carrot bread with figs in it. It was amazing and loved by all.

Mary and I trekked to the center of Islington to eat fish and chips and drink Guinness and Cider. It lived up to our expectations. We were happily surprised by “mushy peas,” a split pea mash that is delicious.  We talked about ideas and processed our day and interactions with everyone.

Tomorrow we will spend the day exploring the flats and moving through details of the Estate. It will be the first day we really start working and we are very excited!

A few more things to add:

We are also starting to see more and more activity around the Estate from other artists.  Many of them live in London but are from various places internationally.  This is a pretty unique opportunity to interact with such a wide scope of artists in a situation that is quite unique as well. Market Estate Project Offices-a circular building adjacent to the Market Estate itself is now being used as a central meeting point for the daily business of the project and for the participating artists and community members alike to gather. This is also where Market Radio is aired from.  Chris, one of the project coordinators,  interviewed Blithe and I live yesterday when we had been up for over 24 hrs.  That will be an interesting clip to listen back on. I have no idea what we actually said!

During the tea we ran into people who had once lived on the Estate as well as current residence and community members.  I felt like it gave us a fairly broad perspective that will help us formulate ways to begin and navigate our way through this project.  I was surprised at everyone’s interest, curiosity and willingness to spend a bit of time with us.  It was also really interesting to learn more about the how these Estates are dispersed in London.  In every neighborhood you find Estates-rich and poor.  We found this to be different than how housing projects in the US are typically all clumped together in one area.  The fear of crime, as Blithe mentioned, from residents and people living in the community was the common thread of the day.  It’s tough to hear young girls discussing the details of gang activity in the area.  We learned a lot from the tea and meet a lot of interesting people in the process.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting and eventful day.  More exploration of the entire Estate to come….

Mary

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London: Day 1

Posted: February 19th, 2010

Mary arrived at 6 am. I arrived at 8. We both slept little to none and were equally unimpressed by the downgrade of food and booze on international flights. WTF, we understand its a recession, but the flights were really not that cheap.

We met bleary-eyed at baggage claim and made our way to “the tube.”

We forgot our directions, and asked around for directions to Market Estate and the Clocktower. It turns out this place is not so well known after all. We eventually figured it out, and dragged our bags to the Estate, with the intention of meeting up with project organizers (Gaby and Gadi) when we got there. When we arrived, we met tenants moving out who didn’t seem to know about the project, or any artists working here. We wandered around a bit, asked a few more tenants for the “office” and everyone seemed equally clueless.

Eventually we met Gadi who led us to our flat in the complex. He and Gaby are both very helpful and accommodating. Our flat has an amazing view, central London in the near distance. The flat itself is full of light, and as we expected quite primitive— what you would expect from a flat in a building slated to be demolished in two weeks. We are ready to make camp and set up shop… our small space heater, working to heat the entire apartment, is our designated campfire.

Mary and I then did some brainstorming and ate chocolate croissants. We talked about our first impressions being here, and both agreed how strange it was that there are still so many people living here. There are 20 families still residing on the estate. The organizers don’t think that is many at all, but from our perspective we were imagining the site to be nearly vacant, and this definitely changes how we will approach our project.

In response, tomorrow we are moving the tea station, currently housed inside the project headquarters (behind a locked door), outside for high tea. Our hope is that we will meet fellow residents and neighbors and talk. We mainly want to see what people know, what they think of the redevelopment, and what its like for the residents to live here during the transition. It’s a very unique situation to be approaching work from, we are excited… and at the moment feel a bit challenged.

We  asked the local shop owner about the protocols for high tea… but she was Canadian. But, we did learn that tea should be in a pot. No straight bag to cup scenario… tacky.

Dinner… Chicken Kebabs, Rice, Cabbage and bean salads. Very satisfying.
Post- Dinner… We met artist Maria who is cutting perfect circles from sections of the flats and will put those circles into a book. She gave us delicious treats and offered to lend us an extension cord for tomorrow’s tea. She will cut out circles from our flat tomorrow.
Post-post-dinner… beer and cider, facebook and internet updates.

Security is little to none here. You can get into the building and onto our floor without any keys or codes. Its generally not a problem, but there are roving kids from the neighborhood looking to open doors, party, and just cause some typical teenage mayhem. The Estate developers also a fear squatters. Any squatters could postpone demolition for quite some time, as London (unlike the US) has decent squatters rights. Some tenants are here simply to monitor the building and keep it squatter-free. After residents move out, doors are covered with huge steel sliding plates.

Tonight we are visited by one of these bands of teens banging on our door. We meet them and they are extremely hyper… and  pretty rude.
Q: How did you get in here? Are you squatters?
A: No, we are artists from America
Q: Are you lesbians?
A: Just one of us.
(Introductions at a very loud decibel)
We invite them for tea tomorrow.
They request vodka and coke. And not the cheap stuff.
We say we’ll take that request into consideration.
They bang on our door some more, but then leave, and the floor is finally quiet.

9:30 pm.
We’ve been up for too long.
Bed Now.
Goodnight London.

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