Note: this weeks post is a big Ramble Bomb about Leeds, just a friendly warning to disinterested folks...
The problem with Leeds is;...
There are far too many shops that attempt to cater for the broadest market possible, the effects appear to resonate throughout the other sectors within the City.
What I think Leeds needs, before it needs art and culture, is a dynamic interesting marketplace, which caters for specific target markets, this to my mind would make a more general wealth, not only financially but in skills and satisfaction, obviously certain recent economic developments have been a catalyst for this kind of thought, but I think it's a fair point either way.
There would be more skilled people, more specific services provided by people, more jobs and an interesting environment to negotiate. Since Primark moved itself into Leeds, placing itself firmly on the Headrow (the main road dissecting the City center) and on the corner of Briggate (Leeds main shopping road) this marked a significant decline on the integrity of Leeds shopping area. More and more shopping plaza's seem to be opening, installing more replicas of shops that already exist in Leeds, which all seem to be replicas of one another anyway. I can't decipher who they're aiming at other than aiming to create some kind of homogenised being, so they can keep taking peoples money from them, to kindly hand them some thoughtless toss they've just knocked up out the back. I believe there's 3 H&M's and 3 Topshops, not only that there seems to be 2 or more of alot the major brands occupying buildings within the City Centre, and plans for more. They're literally 5 mins away from one another on foot. I think this kind of attitude, the fact that a few of the same shop exist, is too decadent! They must have multiple stores just so people don't have to walk five minutes to the other side of the City to shop there. Spreading thin is an understatement. This subject, to me personally, is poignant because there's a distinct lack of a cultural district and support from the council towards supporting creatives in developing a cultural area.
Incidentally I'm much more inclined to wander the Kirskstall market and Merrion market, there are people in there providing services and goods that are very specific, some are undesirable but I think it's a good model.
Here's a few comparative arguments; Edinburgh has many many specific stores, in fact it's littered with them a very interesting destination, not only in terms of its history and architecture, but as a shopping destination a cultural City with a festival that supports this, a City that attracts people to it. Manchester has just hosted an amazing festival supporting culture on all levels, attracting thousands of people to the City supporting its occupants financially as well as spiritually, surely that must sound interesting towards business owners .???? No? Business is a creative market and it can be conducted with integrity catering for peoples needs as well as your own in equal measure, I wish this was the case in Leeds.
Because of this, support and space being thin for the arts institutions that exist in the City, means none of them take chances / risks, focus is placed on getting people through the doors to prove they're worthy of the support they receive, I don't blame them, it's hard. They could do a few things; relinquish control occasionally to worthy benefactors, place faith in other people, there are hundreds of art & design students graduating every year in Leeds, alot of which don't stick around for very long because there's no employment or opportunities here in the arts. The things that do happen that attempt to support this kind of autonomous activity, support by the existing institutions only goes so far before the institution clenches it's hand and pulls the reigns back in, intervening on this activity and spoiling it in doing so, because they can't afford to have there funding stop, or for people think badly of them. This results in the institutions just doing what is acceptable not too much, not too little just right and enough to expand interest in the arts by the general public by about 0.5% by my calculations, which could be speculative.
Do exciting art, exciting projects, collaborate across the various sectors, work together. Do outrageous things, generate an interest, let people escape and take a different perspective on day to day things, don't always simply reflect society and general day to day happenings, people know what happens around them and what they do and what their friends and neighbors do, it's patronising to hold a mirror up to people, community art is occassionally guilty of this! Do things to develop their community, develop new ways in which these people can benefit from their community mutually, design initiatives, utilise people's skills let them help themselves. Or simply give them an out of this world experience by creating things that are mind blowing, inspire people, show them it's possible to re-imagine the uses for elements, present them with out of this world concepts and visuals, stimulate / provoke thought, that surely can't be a bad thing?
Another thing is Leeds City town planning, people always complain about the ring road, sort it out! Create more travel options, bike lanes in the City for example, people love that at the moment, being green whilst helping their health. Sorry if this is starting to sound like some rant directed at an empty void, but it kind of is. Another thing that has struck me about the city planning is how inaccessible the peripheral is, there's no easy way of getting there, and not even that, there is a definate divide in the City where the Industrial sectors sit on the peripheral, obviously, but in Leeds this peripheral seems to hug the City a little too tightly, squeezing pockets of interesting areas over the edges of its sloppy embrace.
Sorry these are all things that have occured / effected me recently and its all come to a head in this blog. Rantathon over!
I'm going to speak positively now about what all this has to do with, basically I've been designing for w while now and I'm getting involved in more and more interesting projects. I want to start designing things that are equally beneficial to all people concerned in producing them or aimed at. Not sure how to go about this, I'm not sure it's very far away from my ongoing ethical stance on Design, as I'm sure it's not among other designers, but it's all too easy to get carried away with things and get engrossed in what you're producing and how it is benefitting you or the person you're working for. What I'm saying is that I'm going to make sure I take measures to make the benefits of my efforts more equal, accross the board, clients / commissioners, their clients and myself, and if it's a more general creative brief with no clear market, simply attempt to make it inspiring.
I've built the Letters that will be installed in Project Space Leeds new Exhibition 'Town & Country'. Alot of hardwork, building large scale wooden frames, wrapping those frames tightly in grass seed and soil, 120 litres of it in total. So as you migh imagine they're quite large, heavy objects. All that remians to do is to hang them on the wall, which will be fun. If you'd like to see them, the opening of 'Town & Country' is this coming Tuesday. That as well as other 'Town & Country' related jobs is pretty much all I've done all week. It's been really nice getting my hands dirty, literally, and getting into some physical work, although admittedly I have felt the pain of my efforts, tired bones, achey muscles.
I've been thinking over what to do for our show in Newcastle Massive Contact. I think I mentioned I was making a phone in my last blog, but that may have to wait. Opting for a few more humble installations, I'm not overly familiar with electrical goods and it could be disaterous, think I'll stick to a few processes I'm comfortable with. I have a few ideas, but won't divuldge anything, not that it's sectret, I'm still ironing these ideas out. Some kind of scultural piece probably will manifest as well as a potential wall piece.
Inspirations this week = none between wood, soil & bed.