A Research Exhibition by Katherine Stansfeld
Furtherfield Gallery, Finsbury Park 18th February to 1st March 2017
Ruth Catlow, co-founder and director of Furtherfield introduced the perfectly-formed group of visitors to the impact that both Katherine’s “informal residency” and this exhibition has had. The show was open to the public for the first time last weekend. More than 300 people visited over the weekend, and 80% were first time visitors. As a way of engaging with the local community, the experience has been enormously successful.
One of the factors Ruth identified as attracting visitors was the title, and particularly the inclusion of the term superdiversity, encouraging a sense of inclusion, especially in the context of the Brexit vote. The quality and duration of Katherine’s engagement and her careful use of participatory methods have clearly stimulated what appears to be a community of people willing to engage and to share their experiences.
There are a number of interesting relationships revealed or created in the exhibition; I’ll refer to two. The first that struck me was the contrast between the formal Borough borders, not visible on the map, but given as an underlying factor in the sense of Finsbury Park as a place; and the richly layered personal experiences that are shared in a multiplicity of forms around the walls. The experiences were recorded by Katherine and individual participants through walking interviews. These were audio recorded, and extracts can be heard on MP3 players that form part of the collage of images and text representing one person’s shared experience. The images include photographs and a map of the routes, with text including a transcript of the audio. Katherine’s methodical care is illustrated in her choice of analogue (film) photography, which encouraged a reflective and slower-paced photographic process.
The second is in the acrylic maps that are displayed as layers in a very engaging arrangement. Surgeon Mike Duggan, present on the tour, neatly articulated some fascinating points about perspective that the arrangement offers. Mike’s main point was that it is impossible to see one layer without being able to see parts of other layers – something that is not possible to witness through turning off or on individual GIS layers. The acrylic map overlays can be seen aligned from only one perspective; from any other perspective there is a potentially challenging display of visual overlap that can be complementary and discordant. It struck me that this challenging display reflected an engaging group discussion about how we deal with tensions and discord in this kind of participatory community context. I could hardly do justice to the discussion here, and so will leave it like that.
Katherine has also produced two video displays that explore encounter in two different spaces: “Urban Natures” and “Slow-Motion Streets”. These videos demonstrate two ways of constructing the sense of encounter, beyond that between people, to include the environment and material culture. In particular, Slow-Motion Streets brings our attention to ambient light, colours, street furniture, and clothes as much as the people themselves, leaving their superficial labels in the background or invisible.
Katherine chose this slow-motion technique initially as a way to slow encounters as an aid to analysing movement. That it has revealed a different way of seeing seems to me to illustrate perfectly the valuable dynamics between exhibition and research, between different ways of seeing and knowing.