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Market Estate Day 11: Countdown begins

Posted: March 3rd, 2010

Last night we realized that the concept for the final part of our video just wasn’t going to reach the potential we had hoped for.  It was an easy visual solution that didn’t challenge the ideas  we’ve been exploring throughout our stay.

After discussions late into the night we still could not come to a conclusion about how to resolve our piece.  After giving each other space to brainstorm separately this morning we came to a new idea and location. We are reinvigorated and reinvested in the piece, and are now moving full speed ahead to complete the work.

Final Shot Site:

Notes from our brainstorming session:

Ownership: To live in council housing is to be in a position between public and private, between individual and state ownership. One can live in a single flat for most of there life, but moving is always a possibility as flat eligibility changes with family status.  Neighborhood kids feel intense ownership over the estate (“these are our blocks!”) as it is a place where they go to do things they aren’t allowed to do elsewhere. It is their autonomous zone. This place has historically meant very different things to different people.

Access: Nearly anyone can walk in the front door of the building and into the hallway. In this way there is only a door that separates a living room from the street. Yet, the design of the building is such that nothing is seen from the street, so most of what happens here is private and hidden. Various strategies have been employed to deal with that level of privacy (ie. security cameras), but they have failed to deter vandalism and violence of the building.

History: The tower estates (Market Estate is one of them) were built as a mandate to clear the slums in London. Until the World War there had been immense housing shortages in the city, and nearly all housing expensive and supplied by private owners, therefore people lived in extremely close quarters in unsanitary living conditions. The towers were called “sidewalks in the sky” and were meant to elevate the conditions of working people. The intentions of the Market Estate design were utopian and benevolent, but failed miserably.

Time: We are here at the end of this Estates life. Nearly all its residents are gone, and those that remain are moving out daily and are happy to leave. We watch them leaving, respectfully stay out of their way, and see the objects pile up that they have left behind.

The Piles: The piles are everywhere, and they accumulate daily as residents move out and construction workers prep apartments for demolition. The piles are collections of personal items combined with structural parts of the building and flats.

Our Pile: Our pile is not about the people that lived here necessarily, or imposing meaning on what is left behind. Rather it is about the failure of this place to house its residents safely and accommodate the kind of community needed to sustain its survival. Our pile is about failed living environments, which include useless crappy objects that don’t work, fall out of fashion, or are forgotten.

We couldn’t shoot today do to time and work needed to prepare the shoot. This meant (of course) that this pile of ours had to be relocated yet again.  This time it was moved to the third story of the clocktower building. Thankfully this time we had an elevator for part of the journey.  This didn’t offer much solace however as we moved a 10 ft long water (and urine) logged carpet.

After our dirty and daunting pile move, we rushed to clean up for a quick interview with a local art magazine.  We then divided our labor, Blithe started editing footage and Mary cooked dinner.  We were happy with the direction of one of our edits. It’s nice to see our work here really beginning to take the form of several finished pieces.

There were also moments today that we talked about other pieces that we want to work on.  We’re not sure if time will permit, but it’s a great feeling to have so many ideas, and to still have the motivation to make work at this site… despite all its challenges.

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