Chen Hangfeng, the international artist in residence in Bradford spoke first, describing his observations of Bradford. During workshops with the local community, Hangfeng explored the local habitat and discovered local plants that tea can be made from. One of Hangfeng’s interventions was Free Christmas held during the Christmas Market. Here the community were invited to decorate a Christmas tree with recycled materials in exchange for local herbal tea. Whilst in residence, he also showcased Santa’s Little Helpers – a video shot in a small village in China were 50% of the world’s Christmas ornaments are made. David Wilson, Cultural Programme Manager at City of Bradford Metropolitan Council, was not able to be present but sent a video message outlining the impact of the project in Bradford. Yan Preston, the local artist was also present and contributed to the discussion.
Xu Zhifeng, known as Shaw, next spoke about 1mile² Waltham Forest. He began by comparing his home city of Shanghai with Waltham Forest, describing how he came to develop his project: Homewalk 1mile² Waltham Forest Code 4053. Inspired by the Olympic Rings and residing in a host borough, Shaw’s project involved defining a circle of houses. Shaw’s ‘ring’ highlighted the individual and personal lives within this area. Working with local artists he solicited residents to participate in written recordings of their lives and the raising of white balloons attached to their chimney pots. Annie Chipcase, local ecologist, Frances Bowman, delivery co-ordinator and Lea O’Loughlin, Shaw’s international artist host at ACME were also present.
1mile² Smethwick gave the audience an account of the project from the local partner’s point of view. The international artist, Arif Mahmood from Karachi, had his residency earlier in the year. We heard directly from local artist Melanie Tomlinson, and the local delivery partners Samina Zahir of Hybrid and Shahida Aslam of Ulfah Arts. This presentation focussed particularly on engagement with local community groups.
1mile² Edinburgh was the final UK city to present, with both sets of artists present. Zoe Walkerand Neil Bromwich explained the background to their activities, which were inspired by both the current economic climate and Edinburgh’s importance as a centre for banking as inspiration for their Bank of Reason. Hosted by Collective Gallery, Sreejata Roy and Mrityunjay Chatterjee’swork examined the relationship between people and a shifting urban ecology, culminating in a newspaper titled ‘Publik Booth’, containing stories and personal memories, as told by residents, of a changing city and the public sites of local commerce.
The second session began with an account from Sandra Hall and Lee Griffiths of 1mile² Johannesburg. They explained their working practices – creating socially engaged artwork taking the form of performances, installations, interventions and publications. Through talking with local people they have initiated dialogue between all kinds of people in Johannesburg, examining the relationship between the environment and its inhabitants. Participants have collaborated in making interactive installations, supported by film, digital images and online content.
1mile² New Dehli was represented by a video from artists Kelda Free and David Brazier, still resident in Dehli, entitled 360º. As the name implied this was a 360º view of the square mile capturing the energy, sights, sounds and people within the locale. Since arriving in Delhi, UK artists Kelda Free and David Brazier’s exploration has included visiting one of Delhi’s landfill sites to meet the waste pickers who work on top of the mountain of rubbish, scraping recyclables together to make a living. They discovered a group of people working together and making a valuable, but often overlooked, contribution to their community. Kelda and David are collaborating with local artist Aastha, and Malati and Sadupta of environmental group Chintan Environmental Research and Action to lead a series of workshops around the theme of waste and its relationship to people and their environment. The local delivery was coordinated by Khoj.
Next was an overview of 1mile² Tehran and Karachi. Both cities were working without a UK artist in residence, instead working with local artists to explore their chosen location. Kianoosh Vahabisent an audio file from Tehran, giving a context to the area of the city that will be explored in 1mile2 Tehran. UK artist Andrew Dodds was present, and travelled briefly to Tehran in January meeting Kianoosh and the four local artists who are currently responding to the area under investigation. 1mile² Karachi sees four local artists and an arts critic exploring Mai Kolachi. a coastal area where land reclamation schemes have depleted the mangroves. These shrubby trees, once a common sight for all Karachiites – can now only be seen through a boat ride to the Indus Delta. An exhibition of the work of the four artists will be on display at the Ahmed Pervaz Gallery, Arts Council Karachi in January.
1mile² Dhaka was hosted by Britto Arts Trust, working with local artist Mahbubur Rahman, UK photographer Syra Miah, and Rizwana of environmental organisation BELA. The project took place in the city of Old Dhaka. This project concluded with multiple installations around the old city attracting 10,000 visitors.
Richard Layzell, UK artist in residence in Shanghai concluded the presentations of the international 1mile² projects. Richard sent a video message giving a very personal response to his time in Shanghai. Richard used the residency as an extension of his work, celebrating and embracing the role of being a foreigner in Shanghai while simultaneously adopting a Chinese life style. Richard’s residence was with Shanghai eARTS, in association with local sound artist Yin Yi.
The event concluded with informal networking, providing all the programme participants with the opportunity to extend discussion and further compare experiences.
All photos from sharing event taken by Vasileios Kantas; Children © Richard Layzell; Baloons © Xu Zhifeng