“The ‘meaning’ of life is not to be found in anything other than that life itself. It is within it, and there is nothing beyond that.”
This City Will Eat You Alive is a situated study of Sailortown, a region of Belfast which until it was demolitished in the 1970s housed thousands of working class families, who worked in shipping, the harbour, factories, and timber. Since 2018, at the invitation of curatorial collective Household CIC, I have been spending time with the evicted community, for whom the disappeared area is the centre of group identity, and with young residents of new social housing therein.
The project is working towards an episodic film and sculptural installation, looking across decades at urban planning and development as colonial practices, being undertaken in a still-colonised and militarised space. Developed from strategies of auto-representation, through which the social and creative practices of the communities of Sailortown show the capacity for identity and community as agents of resistance, the project is rooted in questions around rights to the city, and by, for, and to whom the city acts.
Focussing on ongoing creative and community activities, particularly song, theatre, and poetry written by Dockers and their families, and remapping from memory of streets, domestic life and work on the site of the demolished streets. Alongside this I have been running filming workshops with children living in social housing in the area playing the neighbourhood, imagining their relation to the city, and their future as the city develops around them, repeating historical cycles of pushing low income groups out of the city.
The project will result in an exhibition at Golden Thread Gallery and later in the Netherlands, that mixes sculptural installation, painting, fabrics, and video. This project and its exhibition is an ongoing approach to considering the development and urban planning as colonial practices which erase specific ways of life, and understanding and supporting creative and community practices that arise as both result of and resistance to these urban processes.
Through these local stories and by platforming the non-professional and professional practices of the past and present communities of the neighbourhood we aim to consider creative community building as anti-colonialist and progressive urbanist action.
2018 period Made possible with the generous support of the Mondriaan Fonds voor Beeldende Kunst, DAS Digital Art Studios Belfast and NI Screen
2019 period made possible with the support of the Mondriaan Funds, CBK Rotterdam, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
sol archer 2019