Exeter Residents share your views!
Devising and producing This City’s Centre was a year long process that involved street interviews and actions, public meetings and discussions, documentary making and guerilla film screenings, open devising and rehearsals in empty shops, visiting 39 Exeter residents in their home, a museum launch, a group map reading event and a live performance. We prototyped and tested a new streaming platform, ran performance making workshops at Exeter College (collaborating with 4 dedicated and talented performing arts students), recorded the cleaning team at Princesshay shopping centre on their morning rounds… and sculpted a lot of cardboard consumer waste.
Does your view belong in a museum? We are looking for views from terraced houses, student flats, basement apartments, Georgian mansions, homes on hills, next to the bypass, looking over the quay, from behind the football stadium, next to the mosque. Whether you’ve lived in Exeter all your life, or for a few months, we’d love to hear from you.
Our first actions involved gathering volunteers for the video installation. We had initially been inspired by Anna Minton’s writing on public, private and privatised space in British cities in which she quotes a recent study saying that the more people you know that live within a 10 minute walk of your home, the safer you feel. The criteria for participation was living within 10 minutes walk of Cathedral Green, a space which seemed to be identified in our research as both the medieval and contemporary centre of the city. It has a contested and invisible history as the former common burial ground and the site of 5th November mass bonfire performances and insurrection. It is currently one of the only spaces in the city centre where people can pause for a while without needing to engage in consumer activity. This initial parameter for participation was quite difficult to set, as Phil Smith pointed out in his introductory text in the Here, Now performance, Exeter could be described as a centreless city and as such is truly post-modern. Also what and where the ‘centre’ and the ‘heart’ of Exeter was, was the question we were asking as a driver for the whole project.
Our original quota for participating city centre residents was 20, but due to an enthusiastic response from fliering, on street recruitment and the 5 Minutes Dreaming intervention, we ended up working with almost double the number. It’s great to feel like we have so many new neighbours! The interview materials gathered by Volkhardt Müller were edited into Window the installation for RAMM, and then re-combined to incorporate the on-street interview materials into the interactive map Linger.
“By hearing the voices of your neighbours, of people who have walked the same stretch of pavement over and again, just like you, and having their ideas, opinions and thoughts flow into your ears as you contemplate the exact same view that inspired those thoughts, you just might – as I did – feel increasingly connected to the people around you.” Read more about Exeter Insider’s views on Linger
We wanted to make an experience that involved being physically inside the views collected by the project; to offer a more visceral understanding of the views that could be seen from a mediated distance in the museum. We combined these sound files with invitations to make your own small actions and provocations on the street sites of the installation views for both the passersby to engage with, and also as a kind of gift to the people who had participated. Micro performances that might periodically happen in front of their windows, interrupting the daily flow of Exeter life in unusual ways.
‘it’s the scope and ambition of this project, the technical adventurousness, the collaborative and participatory ethos embedded in its very being that make it such a success. And just as the digital aspect is intrinsic to its narrative and structure, so is the sense of hope – the potential for change, for us to build the city we want, to be who we want to be.’ Exeunt Magazine on Here, Now
From our initial call out for installation participants, 7 brave residents volunteered to work with us to make the live performance event. With widely varying experience of technology and video work they were extraordinarily generous with their time, thoughts, and their private domestic space, contributing a really wonderful energy and raft of ideas to the event. We worked together over a 5 month period meeting in person and rehearsing over skype. We had a weeks residency in the former Oggy Oggy pasty shop in the Guildhall shopping centre in June which formalised some of our structures and approaches and tested audience interactions, texts and choreographies. Our final performance event ran over 5 days in St Stephen’s House, Princesshay, the home of the Princesshay management team who gernerously supported us with space, time and resources and were endlessly patient with the increase in unusual noise and traffic in their daily work space.
We are still gathering responses to This Citys’ Centre as a way to collect feedback to develop this and future work. Your comments will really help us with this. Please consider filling in this short questionnairre – it will take around 5 minutes. You can also comment through facebook or @thiscityscentre @blindditch.