Can Altay, a walk in the park.

All these years I’ve been saying how good my local corner shop is. “Ah Can Can is good” Nope we have to say “Jan”  Live and learn.

On a hot 22nd Aug I climbed the 2 floors of the refurbished William Morris Gallery in order to listen to a talk by a young artist Can Altay working in Walthamstow via Create and The Gallery at William Morris.

Now I am open to hearing all about what’s occuring and one can go into one of two camps: One  can just say “Artbollox” or one can listen and get to grips with the artist working here right NOW.

The work Can does is all about utilizing public spaces for art and that engineered art in turn engages people with their environment.  For example, a public under-used park space lacking in inspiration can be transformed by people as artists into a useable self- created area. It  becomes a different, people-owned place. The fight is surely on.

Starting in Istanbul, Can transformed, with the labour of perhaps non-park users, a green area into a living green area. Whilst army guards from the nearby barracks were surely relieving their boredom by looking over the high fence, Can’s people grew vegetables and immersed themselves knowingly or not into the artist-made geometric wooden shapes around them. All was organic. They were  part of the process and the end.  The landscape was changed forever and through the artistic experience so too were the participants allegedly. The park was altered by the people. They had engaged with a public space and made it their own.

Can’s next project engaged residents in social housing somewhere in deprived London. Here journalistic headlines  arranged  to mirror the divide and rule of society motivated people to start talking about their spaces, the spaces they believed they  no longer owned or in which they had any influence. The arrangement of the headlines produced emotional spurts. The participants had become engaged in their community again or for the first time through seeing and feeling words. There was no follow up but a promise by residents that they would continue something. Yep.

Can’s latest work is all about a familiar ignored item of importance, the door-knob. He again invited residents in social housing to examine how going through doors influences their existences. Door-knobs on the beaten worn track: Waltham Forest places of interest.

How is being a social change innovater being an artist? It’s all done through passion. Musicians use music. Writers use words. Artists use the landscapes in front of them.

I got it all. Topical projects are all about people’s stories and how they react with and inhabit their environments. We are saturated with those themes currently especially as LOCOG needed to mobilise the masses to get them on their side to justify the Games expense. Every neglected part of deprived London was map-marked for projects guaranteed to make residents feel engaged with their London, their Games. Every back alley was elevated to a walk route and any smidgen of history was amplified to bring in those who do prefer the beaten track. It was a game within the Game. And then of course, stuffy William Morris Gallery had to keep up with Newham and Hackney and be part of the bigger 2012 picture. In came artists somehow  linked to William Morris and his socialist leanings, artists for and about the people.

I enjoyed Can’s talk. It was well considered and user friendly. It is all just a frame too far for anyone expecting art to be a bunch of dahlias in a vase. I wanted to know how non- social housing residents would be invited to participate in an Altay project and whether the guinea pigs in social housing and deprived areas knew they were in an art project, that’s all. Course they didn’t!

Can Altay’s lecture was the first of many curated talks to come at The (new) William Morris Gallery. Excellent free education  (now that’s socialism). I will not forget it.

William Morris Gallery is in Lloyd Park, Forest road E17. One beautiful place.

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