Last Thursday I was in a huff at work and looked forward to getting out of town for a complete change of scene. I jumped on both a tube and bus ride to get to west London and eventually got to Watermans in Brentford to see a preview of the LONDON-DELHI 2010-2012 exhibition currently being shown there. I say exhibition, although having seen the work, my experience of it was a little different. I’d perhaps say it was a well presented showcase of local community efforts. It was the take of young people with collaborations from a production company and the London Mayor’s office. LONDON-DELHI 2010-2012 – looks at two different cities at two different stages in time, it observes, anticipates and conceptualises the challenges London will face in 2012 in conjunction with the current challenges that Delhi is facing today. In comparing and contrasting these two cities, the exhibition looked in detail at three key points: urban frontiers, electronic fortification and the river-front. In principle quite important and exciting themes I’d say. Yet, a lot of these seemed to be explored in theory – rather than an elaborate feature of public display. This was probably quite understandable given that the space allocated for these items was fairly minimal – still that’s no cause to stop festivities.
A work that stuck in my mind was a video installation by the Green School – entitled CCTV Workshop. The video seems to feature a montage of unclear and random images which evoke a sense of fear and paranoia. I don’t know if that’s do with Big-Brother culture, growing numbers in the population – or the fact that teenagers were set loose with a camera. This could indeed be part of a workshop – but also part of a feature which makes for an inspiring installation. In this style – most of the work is installed – although there are some spectacular sound captures composited with a series of interesting photographs from Delhi. At one point, you are able to stand in a position surrounded by street sounds from four angles. Despite this collection of interesting articles, you only grasp the extent of the work by reading about it in detail. At this point, I had very quickly moved through all there was too see and was hoping to see some more.
However, before I could turn a corner – we were presented with a series of speeches. The first, by the curator Karamjit Bhullar, followed by Munira Mirza – the Mayor’s Director of Culture and Arts. It wasn’t until these two spoke that I began to understand and appreciate the sincerity of work gone into the putting these installations together. Moreover, it was from their presentations that I began to glean the benefit of places like Watermans – an arts institution – outside of central London – providing a space for people to collaborate and share ideas on topical concerns. Munira mentioned that we’re happy to see words like internationalism and cosmopolitan be happily thrown around – but here was an opportunity to see those words come to life. Looking around the room – at the range of people present: teachers, curators, parents, production crew, students and gallery staff – I could see what she meant. Watermans was highlighted as a frontier in cultural movements – the first place to have Shabana Azmi, Ravi Shankar and Melvyn Bragg featuring their work.
Ultimately, it was recognised that 60% of Londoners live in outer boroughs – and we need local places of cultural interest. The quality and nature of this culture is determined by people’s investment in it – and here we see that process in progress with young people from the local community. Although, with this particular exhibit – I would have hoped to have seen more, I realise that this is just the beginning in an ongoing three-year project. I look forward to see what’s next.