the ribbon people are back. 56 of them grace the hoardings around the building site of southampton’s new arts centre, collected and imaged by 4 unit11studios artists and a couple of other staple gun wielding helpers during a couple of cold and rainy hours on sunday afternoon. this time, they are rendered in videotape and wool – the intention being to respond to the large white ‘paper’ with something like a pen/pencil drawing of passers-by.
one early participant later reported on facebook that ‘I just eschewed consumerism and was instead immortalised in wool. WIN.’
once again, it was clear that this is a great way to interact with people in a novel way – we do not have to coerce, beg, ask, or even suggest to people that they become subjects – they see what is going on and they flock – wanting to be part of this drawing, this testament to their being, and this group of disparate individuals – joined by place and time and line. in short, wanting to be part of a visible community. each drawing takes up to 15 minutes, during which time, we are up close and personal, meeting and talking to each person we image. it is a joy.
thanks to all friends who came and helped with photography, drawing and emergency requirements, and, of course, to all who stopped and became part of this rather beautiful drawing.
post script – added one week later by sarah filmer:
this is how the hoarding looked less than 24 hours later:
from about 10.30 am onwards throughout monday i received countless messages on multiple platforms reporting that one of the construction company workers was removing the work from the hoarding. several intrepid sorts spoke directly with both him, and the site manager. under instruction from the client, the construction company were keeping the hoardings ‘clean’.
when we leave ribbon people, we leave our contact details in the form of our business cards. we appreciate that we are operating in a hinterland between legal and illegal, acceptable and unacceptable. we take responsibility for this by proclaiming these works as ours. an ongoing theme in recent unit11studios collaborative works is the notion of negotiating boundaries. these boundaries might be physical, philosophical, metaphorical … but negotiation is negotiation. and leaving our card is an invitation to dialogue. an invitation to reconsider a situation, once the parameters have shifted slightly …
the hoardings became the canvas for a work. let’s talk about what we do now.
we can only talk for ourselves, but we were not alone, and we have heard no conflicting responses, so i might take a slight liberty and say:
many felt that the astoundingly rapid response to the ribbon people was thoughtless, destructive, inflammatory, aggressive, ridiculous, and without basis in anything sensible, logical or rational – it felt like an assertion of power.
whilst this was keenly felt, we take a position that all of these events have something positive to offer:
– removing the work did not unmake the art, the moment, the joy, the pleasure, or the genuine moments experienced by all of those involved – artists, participants, viewers alike.
– southampton’s everyperson loved the work. once again, it was shown that southampton has an art soul that explodes out when offered the opportunity
– the voices of support, outrage and empathy rang loud and clear and wide – direct approaches to the guys removing the work, twitter campaigns to councillors, emails to grovesnor, mclaren and southampton city council, bloggers chimed in, someone went the following evening and drew a dot-to-dot using the staple holes as guides, a poem was written, a letter was posted on the board in (ironic) response, and facebook and twitter were aflame with indignation. thanks to you all – you know who you are
– we have been approached by the developers of the site – we are planning to meet and discuss future art projects. inevitably, there are layers of bureaucracy enmeshed with this approach, but any dialogue that explores the potential of different groups working together has to be ripe with possibility. we are seriously considering our position with regard to how we choose to work in advance of this meeting … again, an occurrence that necessitates serious self reflection and clarification of mode of practice, context of practice and potential manifestations of practice is a gift. as an artist, it is easy to avoid these issues once you are outwith an educational framework.
i made this video about the beauty of the day, using the words of matt west, southampton’s children’s poet laureate who was moved to respond to the temporary invasion of guildhall square by some of southampton’s citizens:
sarah filmer – ribbon people
here are some links to other responses (and these are just the tip of the iceberg)
grant sharkey types a letter to the draconians
matt west’s poem
louise owen’s quiz
so unit11studios says thank you to everyone for their generosity of spirit, cementing this ephemeral beauty into the art history of our city.