How do we experience place for ourselves? What does it mean to us? Do our own memories become part of the collective consciousness accreted in the layers of storytelling laid down in a city’s foundations?
These are some of the questions posed by the group of eight artists brought together by four mentors to explore various locations in Leeds. Through individual and collaborative research and methodologies, a body of work has emerged that seeks to find new ways of interpreting the notions of place and self.
The artists have produced work ranging from the documentary and the poetic to personal stories and memories of place. The resultant book, Place & Memory, feels like an archive, a repository for self analysis, not just the observed. This is no visitors guide book to Leeds, and yet, never having been to Leeds I have an imprint in my head of these personal reflections which might act as a map. The artists have given me their own guide to this complicated and fragile space.
This transient sense of journey within environment is beautifully resolved through word and image. Word has been used as narrative, document, question and aesthetic. Each artist has constructed a world in which the viewer is being asked to enter and explore an anatomy of a different part of the city, offering an invitation to listen to the rhythms being played.
The imagery likewise leaves one with a sense of the sounds of place too. The photographs and film/video stills hover within the space between fact and fiction, that blurring of worlds where the edge to things can be found, a place where one can hear the chord structure. This is a place where the remembered is a record of those that have gone before, including ourselves and a thoughtful notation to describe who we might be now.
I feel honoured as always to be allowed access to people’s stories. By sharing our stories we allow for new provocations, alternative paradigms to exist. As the artist and writer Suzanne Lacy says in her book Leaving Art: “…getting people to talk with each other, and as a result think or act differently, is a critical role for artists…” The stories shared here are never slight. They all share that willingness to engage with a discourse of transformation. As one of the artist writes: “I explored my place, only to find it was no longer the same. Then I realised it didn’t matter – I was changing what this area means to me.” I think it is this idea of change that underpins the project for me. That through looking at place we can find new ways of talking about ourselves and our experiences, and the sharing of these narratives broadens all our lives in ways to suggest we are not alone.
Dominique Cameron is an artist and writer based in Dundee; click here to visit her website.
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