Ben Bird discusses his work for ALL2015 – and what happened next
For ALL2015 I wanted to explore a different method of working after feeling frustrated with a photographic approach to issues around housing in the UK. The language used on hoarding and advertisements of developments seen everyday in newspapers adverts, or traveling around for work in particular caught my attention. These struck me through their alienating use of words in the face of an escalating housing crisis, along with what attributes through language were being associated with something as important as housing, and the abstract attributes selling them.
Come Home to Luxury Living
The viewpoint of the marketing of these developments is perversely at odds with issues around housing. These include rents outstripping incomes, effect of communities broken up, council and private interests in redevelopment of land and housing to name but a few. One example that repeatedly came up and stuck in my mind was the use of the word Luxury. The idea of luxury as a new standard or perhaps now a baseline of expectation, luxury of experience or used some how as commodity. We are not told whose or what the definition of the word is. Its use is so ubiquitous and present in all developments that eventually it seemed to render any meaning or impact of the word redundant.
Home to Luxury Living
The approach I decided to take was to appropriate and de-contextualise the sentences from the marketing. By doing this the hope was to take apart the mechanism used and to question and ridicule the words used, and by extension the situation. The freedom given to experiment with this approach from Art Language Location, resulted in the intentional public installation on Newmarket Road in Cambridge. ALL 2015’s work has since led to the development of a new related work.
To Luxury Living
Ideas expressed in Cambridge has led to the creation of You’ll need new words to do it justice. The method of appropriating whole sentences is reduced now to creating a list of individual words, seeing how far this approach and idea can be taken. This cataloging of nouns, and adjectives allows a two-fold aim. A continuation and closer examination of how language is used, in relation to housing’s unsustainable situation and change in cities. By further dismantling the unknown author’s voice, and its authority, the aim of questioning the use of language hopefully leading to continuing questioning the situation we find ourselves in. This tool allows the text, although taken from London developments, to be relevant throughout the country in its homogeny. The work’s final form is intentionally flexible and unfixed, it could be a 5 metre long print, public billboard or projection. This allows the work to fit into any spaces, allowing the work and its ideas to interact with a wide range of people.
The second aim is a cataloging of each word used in this manner as well as its uniqueness in an often repetitive exercise, listing words attributed to properties or homes. The long term hope is that it will become an evolving record or thesaurus of housing and language, seeing the limits of what words or attributes can be attached to bricks and concrete.
Thanks to Art Language Location and everyone involved in ALL2015