A public programme exploring critical and creative approaches to public realm & placemaking across Northampton.
Focusing on the relevance of placemaking for social and artistic communities, and the role of regeneration within cultural institutions, we aim to question what it means to inhabit, share and transform public space. Through a series of paracuratorial activities –including a 3-days symposium, screenings, workshops, writing groups, tarot readings, food events, walks, virtual gestures and other participatory events– we will investigate placemaking through two different entry points: architecture & design, body & movement.
Artists, curators, academics, researchers and our local communities will gather to reflect upon various economic, environmental, territorial, political and cultural implications of placemaking, or creative processes by which people and their institutions shape the public realm. By focusing on the idea that bodies are places, territories, or grounds in which new forms of placemaking can be seeded and grow, we will investigate the relation between interior and exterior spaces, individual and collective experience, the public and the private, and other critical and creative approaches to engage with the embodied experience of public space.
Sensing Place is a call out to develop strategies for collaboration and to strengthen connections between our individual identities and the environments we share. What does it take to create more just and equal environments? How can we collaboratively inhabit places and foster a sense of belonging in our communities? As we are creating a new phase of NN Contemporary Art at 24 Guildhall Road, we are looking closely at the policies and processes involved in designing public space and exploring their challenges and outputs. Our institution is actively involved in Northampton’s town regeneration strategies and we want to explore themes such as agency, infrastructure and sustainability across the creative collaborations that merge art, culture, and community-led design in placemaking.
Sensing Place is developed in partnership with West Northamptonshire Council.
The programme is structured into two Chapters:
Chapter 1(Autumn-Winter 2022)
Artist Commissions included:
- Model Village – Joe Moss
Artist workshops and talks included:
- Architectural Tissues: Forms and Potentials for Movement – Workshop with Adam Moore
- ground / break / ing – Workshop with Rachel Pimm
- Collaboratory Kitchen: Kitchen of Possibilities (Emilio Hernández Martínez & Daniela Sclavo)
- Sensing Place 3-Day Symposium
Chapter 2 (Spring – Autumn 2023)
Through this programme, we aim to deepen the awareness of the embodied self in relation to places (urban and natural) and to other bodies; understand the interconnected condition that we hold with spaces, bodies, and the rest of the world; localise and awaken inherent potentialities within the body and the spaces we inhabit; recognise the many challenges that public spaces face within the urges of the contemporary context –social inequalities, environmental violence– but also their capacity to generate resistance and resilience, and provide shelter and protection; create ‘interstices’, as described by Karl Marx, or trading possibilities other than those in effect within the capitalist system (non-reproductive, alternative economies); generate spaces for learning and conviviality, critical thinking, affective encounters and knowledge exchange; finally, we wish to devise strategies of well-being and care towards the individual’s body, the care of other bodies and the spaces they occupy.
Artist workshops and talks to include:
- Jennifer Reid
- Lucy Suggate & Charlie Ford
- Harold Offeh
- Erica Scourti
- Morgan Quaintance
Artist commissions to include:
Starting from the suggestion that ‘bodies are places/territories/grounds’, Musarc are proposing to create a temporary, choral hyper-body in Northampton. Devised through a series of workshops & activities such as physical warm-ups, vocal exercises, eating and sharing food together, guided conversations, writing groups, impulse sessions, and performance workshops, a libretto emerges, animated by the concerns, hopes, and desires of the people taking part.
The idea is to reach out to as many kinds of organisations as possible: the WI, local choirs, educational projects, protest and activist groups, unions, brass bands … and to engage them in a process whereby all these organisations form a temporary choral/performance collective.
The concept of ‘care’ will be central (as opposed to replacing, regenerating); the idea of the ‘complaints choir’; as well as the idea of ‘friction’ – the question on how groups of people with a diverse and often contradictory set of ideas/agendas can live together in a city and enact change.
A major drive in this idea of ‘making something from nothing with people who may have very different ideas or access to voicing them.’ We are also trying to elegantly avoid the problem of artwashing Northampton’s regeneration projects. The main question is how this project can enable local communities to network in new ways, give voice to groups which may otherwise be marginalised, and see how holding difference in a space and guiding it towards a ‘manifestation’, which can be documented (a film, a book) and may leave behind some form of energy, reference or starting point.
Working with NN Contemporary Art, RESOLVE Collective will be collating a series of workshops that celebrate grass-roots creative community practices in Northampton, centering the conversation on neglected spaces in the town centre and how access can be facilitated through creative and design-led community practices. Foraging for local materials, knowledges, and narratives, RESOLVE will hold workshops in these empty spaces across the town centre, using each session to add to a mobile, assembled structure that physically brings the learnings of the session together. This will visualise the movement of knowledges and resources throughout these networks and galvanise strategies towards the reimagination and locally-led transformation of Northampton.
Gothic Revival will be an audiovisual installation & performance series by David Panos exploring audio-aesthetic & moving image arrangements of a town. Composition is considered through an architectural, civic formation where embodied elements, such as corporeality, structures experience. The project is a consideration of visceral mechanisms; language, form, sound and colour to create acoustic, filmic structures with mechanical apparatus that resonate within contemporary social and political landscapes. A sonic milieu of historicity unfolds space, time and materiality where feudal formations can rhythmically transpose a neo-medieval scenography and its subsequent relics.
The Project will culminate in an installation and performance in late autumn 2023.
Our Artist in Residence for Spring – Summer 2023 is Morgan Quaintance.
Sensing Place Symposium
The Sensing Place symposium was a 3-day event launching our public realm programme, and brought together thinkers, collaborators, artists and members of the community to our new site to discuss and develop dialogue for the design brief and blueprint processes for 24 Guildhall Road. Contributors presented their projects, provocations and processes, in dialogue with our design team and partnership stakeholders.
This event was also an opportunity to view phase 1 capital works and opened up the design process for phase 2. More information about 24 Guildhall Road can be found here.
- Sean Griffiths: designing public spaces as an independent artist and the founder of FAT Architecture. As the architect advisor for the 24 Guildhall Road capital project, Sean spoke about the vision for the new NN location.
- Moira Lascelles (Deputy Director of Up Projects)
- Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf (Artistic Director of Peckham Platform)
- Akil Scafe-Smith (Founding Artist of Resolve Collective).
- Marie Bak Mortensen (Create London)
- Emilio Hernandez Martinez (Artist from Colaboratory Kitchen)
- Cheryl Jones (Director of Grand Union)
- Harriet Matzdorf (from the organic farm and research organisation Pollinaria).
- Cecily Chua, Theatrum Mundi: how performative cultural practices can influence architecture and city making.
- Clare Louise Staunton: Spectres of Modernism: Artists Against Overdevelopment.
- Matthew Chesney (Director of Backlit Gallery)
- Dr. Silvie Jacobi (Director of London School of Mosaic)
- Rachel Pimm: Earth writing workshop to engage with original locations of land and forms by which we shape and modify it for use. An exploration of value, colonisation of plants and territory
- Alex Parry
- Ryan Hughes (SpaceX Researcher)
- Roger Malbert (former Head of Hayward Gallery Touring)
- Gareth Bell-Jones (Director and Curator of Flat Time House)
- Angelica Sule (Director of Programme Site Gallery)
- Dylan Fox (Artist)
- Haley Morris-Cafiero (Artist and Researcher at the University of Northampton)
- Joe Moss
This event took place at 24 Guildhall Road, Northampton.
Sensing Place Archive
22 April – 2 July 2023
March – June 2023