Image copyright to artist Nelson Guzman.
SACRIFICE ZONE, the latest initiative from Arcade, is an ongoing series of commissions by artists and writers examining the links between art and regeneration agendas.
With the economic crisis reverberating globally and major development projects faltering, a gap has opened in which debates about the complicity of art and artists in regeneration have taken on a new immediacy. Over the coming year the projects in SACRIFICE ZONE will offer a critical framework within which a new, engaged dialogue can emerge.
In February 2009 we were commissioned to make the fourth contribution to Sacrifice Zone alongside commission three by writer Anthony Iles, both of which are free to access at the Arcade website now. The following text provides some background to our contribution:
Future Visions of History
Penny Whitehead and Daniel Simpkins
Culturally-driven urban renewal is nothing new. By the time the London 2012 Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad - the excessively drawn out and costly accompanying cultural programme into which a significant chunk of UK arts funding has been redistributed - have come to an end, it will be almost 30 years since Thatcher's government first implemented a major strategy situating internationalism, tourism and culture at the forefront of urban regeneration. In 1984, on the back of race riots, mass unemployment and severe economic and social deprivation, Liverpool became the first British city to host an International Garden Festival, a pioneering cultural event that paved the way for a number of similar festivals throughout the UK and later Capitals of Culture, Biennials, the Millennium Dome and now the Cultural Olympiad.
Attracting more than 3 million visitors within its year-long duration at a cost of over £12.5million of public funds, the Liverpool International Garden Festival was cited as a benchmark by governments throughout the country in bids for repeat events in some of the most deprived parts of the UK - including Ebbw Vale, Stoke-on-Trent, Gateshead and Glasgow where it was later replicated. However, despite its short-term successes, Liverpool's garden festival failed to yield any sustained impact on the deprivation of the area, and its site, sold off to private developers and fiercely guarded by 24 hour security, now lies derelict alongside a community as unaffected and disaffected as they were 30 years ago.
Like the 2012 Olympics a major focus of the International Garden Festival was the reclamation of a large area of riverside land. Today the derelict festival site has been temporarily reclaimed by nature as vegetation and birdlife stake their claim to the land, gradually obscuring the many public artworks commissioned for the site and inhabiting what is left of its utopian construction. In East London the sight is disquietingly reminiscent of Liverpool in 1982, a forest of cranes and expanses of vacated space lying in anticipation of the next phase in their development. As the two sites progress through converse cycles of re/degeneration and the country prepares for another period of recession, how long before the cracks in the Olympic vision start to appear?
Visit Sacrifice Zone on the Arcade website
Further information about previous Future Visions of History projects