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.

A Day of Galleries, Museums and Libraries


Can Altay gave a talk at the William Morris Gallery about art in spaces and the public or users’  interaction with it. Or something along those lines. Fabulous talk and earnest. Can has travelled all over expressing his art and evaluating the impact of his visionary concepts and tangible visible work or constructions. About 21 of us had booked for free to enjoy the first talk in the newly refurbished William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park Walthamstow. The place was packed today with coach loads of seniors although the coaches must have been hidden. The toilets are full of Morris organic art wallpaper.The place is buzzing. Before it was brown and quiet like an old fashioned library. I loved it more then. It belongs to everyone now with its noisy café and crowded foyer festooned with bundles for sale .Not cheap souvenirs either. I’ll get over it. Waltham Forest Council tarted up so many places but I rarely see the famous ethnically diverse resident population in any Gallery, Museum or place of interest, I’ll keep looking and I’ll be disappointed again and again.

The Stratford Library staff had not heard of Stratford Museum. It’s actually the People’s Museum of Newham and just across from Gala Bingo going towards Bow. There we enjoyed a welcome orange juice , choccy biscuits and a film about changing Stratford (yawn…overdone pre Olympics, I’d say) then we looked at the permanent exhibition. Again flog the history of the indigenous population but all good.

Off then to The Nunnery in case any Madge Gill work was up still.Nothing doing and so The Carmelite Café fed and watered us with green tea and miracles of nutty and syrupy flapjacks.

Straight into a no. 25 bus with our trusty Freedom Passes then the 308 to Wanstead Station to get to the Library for a Family History Open Forum evening. Brilliant. We were rewarded with a cuppa for transcribing baptism records from 1844. Wasn’t hard and we were in jolly good company.