4: Audience: I Love Cambridge (May 2020)

Part 4 undertakes a self-directed project that aims to ‘make the world a better place’ focusing as much on process – particularly audience engagement – as outcomes.

This project starts to look at developing work around social and environmental issues in Cambridge where I live. Cambridge is one of the richest and most rapidly growing hi-tech places in Britain, but also of of the most equal. It is a very multi-cultural and outward looking city that voted very strongly to remain in the EU. The council has a longstanding commitment to environmental and biodiversity issues, but very high levels of traffic pollution and congestion. However for the past thirty years I have not been able to keep up-to-date with what is going on because I have been travelling too much and to prioritise family commitments when at home. This audience-focused project will provide motivation to revive my contacts and networks here at home afte many years of travel, including some friends who are now ‘alternative’ tour guides and people from whom we regularly buy the Big Issue paper. There is also a thriving international tourist market as an obvious potential market for my work, if I can resolve some of the tensions between political voice and tourist saleability.

Most of my own work on Cambridge so far, and that of many other Cambridge illustrators and artists is largely aesthetic. In this project I start to explore possible ways of developing my response to First Things Next for a commercial market, linking also with work on approaches to political illustration in my Visual Research module.

My work starts by:
– Engagement with networks and agencies working in the City and setting up a Facebook page, twitter and instagram feed for the project and inviting others to contribute/comment so that I get an in-depth understanding of current issues and possible visual responses
– review and collage of my own past photographs and illustrations and work by other artists and illustrators, particularly those working from a more political perspective.
collaging magazine and newspaper articles and other found/appropriated material.
– mapping potential issues where my work could make a contribution, and interlinkagez/overlaps between them.

I will continue to build on discussions about Creative Process from previous assignments. My work will include:

  • Sketchbook reflective diaries kept regularly over the period March to May to observe and record people in context and events, snatches of conversation and discussions with people I know/meet. Including sketching with Cambridge Urban Sketchers
  • Photography with Cambridge Camera Club to places where I need permission to photograph eg to Cambridge Mosque and to get inspiration and feedback from other photographers as the basis for some of the images.
  • procreations’ as exploratory mock ups as well as finished pieces
  • documentary prints in different printmaking media.

I will develop at least one of the following ‘sub-projects’ where I already have some knowledge/contacts:

1: Mosque: new work about ‘multi-cultural’ Cambridge using sketches and photos from the new Cambridge Central eco-mosque, particularly women worshippers and visitors, linking with my professional work on Islamic contexts. I have already made contact with relevant people in the mosque. Outputs would be a series of ‘print translations’ in different printmaking media, incorporating collage and sketches. What I am trying to communicate will be based largely on in-depth interviews, and what people at the mosque feel they want to say. But – depending on how that goes – there may also be other work where I express my own view.

2: Allotments/biodiversity : advocacy work with allotment society and council based on collage/photomontage of photos of our old wildlife allotment where our (admittedly rather hands-off) organic methods were being seriously undermined by spraying with pesticides. Placing this in the context of documents and discussion of vision and regulations of the council and NAS.

3: Homeless : new work using collaged text from Council policy documents, charities and Big Issue, overlaid with sketches and text from discussions with homeless women and men living on the streets.

The specific focus and outputs will depend on how the discussions and audience feedback evolves. If permissions are granted for my work with the mosque, and there is sufficient audience interest, this will be my sole focus. I would just outline possibilities and do a couple of sample images for the other two issues, and possibly other issues that emerge from my collage brainstorming and current discussions over the Cambridge City Plan 2020-204.

I am aiming to lay the basis for a much longer term body of work and engagement beyond my work for this module. I want to establish and compare different ways of engaging with different audiences across a range of issues that I and others feel strongly about. I anticipate sets of ‘alternative collage translations’ on selected issues in different styles that are then circulated for critique/response/interpretation to whoever is interested. United more by the participatory creative process, voice and approach than visual content and style. Pointing then to work that could be further developed across the range of media I work with.

The images and documentary narratives will uploaded periodically to my Zemni Images Facebook page and as interactive web galleries to my Zemni Images SMUGMUG website, together with links to relevant campaigning organisations to make those into a more active advocacy site for my work.