I used Visionhire as a title because I liked the fact that there were all these diverse political visions flying around and there was huge discourse going on, none of which seemed to be very visionary. What is an artist to do? Often my first question when faced with a new context is to ask the people who are there already, since I am often only dropping by – “Brighten the place up” seems a telling and frequent answer.
Visionhire was part of an exhibition at Beaconsfield called GLEAN. I was invited to make a new piece of work in Lambeth Walk, which is just parallel with the gallery. I spent maybe a month or 6 weeks going down to Lambeth Walk every day – I live round the corner so it was very possible to do that – researching, talking to all the people that I could, mainly shopkeepers, and finding out what was going on there. What was going on was discussion of the political issues around regeneration, linked to the privatisation of council housing and new housing association developments. Lambeth Walk had been redeveloped in the 70s and it was this amazing shopping arcade with pedestrian bridges spanning the walk and this potentially nice 70s architecture — hence the mirror balls hung from the bridges each day for a month — a reference to the retro-glamour potential of the 70s architecture. Rupert had talked about how it could be such a groovy place to live if it were promoted that way. Incidentally, a couple of years ago someone opened a fabulous retro shop selling everything from glass lamps to telephones, located between Joy’s grocer and Ozzie’s café.
But the area had been left to go to wrack and ruin. Now there was a move to pull it all down and start again and essentially half of Lambeth Walk didn’t want this to happen and half did. What’s weird is that half has been pulled down and new developments built and half is the old 70s bit, which make sense, because it’s connected to the big council estate, which very actively fought off a privatisation plot called ‘The Vauxhall Project’.
There was an empty Visionhire TV shop on Lambeth Walk and I was trying to occupy the shop for the period of the show, to present everything I was gathering — lots of paper work and information from various people. In the end I got permission to use an empty gas showroom and opened that up and displayed photos and all the information. It became a drop-in centre for local activists and campaigners and people that had something to say about the area. Funnily enough it was next to the Regeneration Partnership who were the target of much of the disaffection. It’s now the local Sure Start drop-in.
Throughout the period of the show, I employed someone to stand in the walk with a blackboard on which anyone could write what they wanted, a sort of multi-vocal or undogmatic placard . . I produced a broadsheet that was distributed free with the local Regeneration News. It contained interviews with the various dissenting voices of some of local people.
Commissioner and venue
Part of GLEAN, Beaconsfield, London
Naomi Siderfin And David Crawforth at Beaconsfield
Peter and Chris at Lambeth Walk Partnership
Giles at St Peters Heritage Centre
Lambeth Walk Steering Group
Fred Peters at Ethelred Youth Club
Philip of the Paradise Steel Band
Elvis and Rhodalyn
Ella Gibbs and belt
Mike at Design For Print
Richard and Pregnant
Brendan at Insight Lighting
- Scans from archive notes + gleaned information
- Scan mirrorman hat
- Extracts from video footage
- Scans of panoramic photo collages of flats
- Scan all of broadsheet / original quark document to pdf
- Audio of conversations for broadsheet
- Text by Naomi Siderfin for GLEAN catalogue