press release

Preview: Thursday 10 July 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Six exhibitions staged jointly at galleries at the northern and southernmost ends of England: Sunderland: Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Reg Vardy Gallery, National Glass Centre Southampton: Southampton City Art Gallery, John Hansard Gallery, Millais Gallery

At a time when national identity - and the relationship between Britain and its constituent elements - are live political issues, thirty artists examine what England in the 21st century stands for.

At Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, three architects, two artists, and a collective that includes practitioners from both professions explore our relationship to England's distinctive built environment. All six ask how what we build embodies our most cherished values, determines who we are, and creates our sense of civic identity. For some, the task at hand is to imagine how we might reshape our urban environments to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number; whilst for others, imagining how we might be living in the near future is the priority.

AOC were the youngest practice in the Architects' Journal's recent survey of young British architecture. Here they have created 'Generous Street', a prototype which explores the potential of redundant pieces of street furniture. AOC literally deconstruct an icon of Englishness, Giles Gilbert Scott's classic red K6 phone box, creating a kit of parts that can be reconfigured into fit the needs of its environment.

Nicola Koller's satirical short film 'This Sceptred Isle' visualizes her doctoral research into the direction of new-build planning over the next century. Koller's video imagines England in 2050 as a vast commuter belt characterized by low-density, low-rise 'executive' gated estates, universal car ownership, with some green belt preserved, albeit underneath spaghetti-junction-style flyovers.

Matthew Butcher's 'Flood House' is proposals for our future selves. Butcher imagines England in 2050, when, as sea levels have risen, East Anglia and the Thames Estuary have become flood plains uninhabitable in traditional buildings. His experimental houses 'float' on raft-like structures and utilize tidal waves to generate their own power.

Space Hijackers are a collective of artists, architects and activists who create unofficial interventions into public spaces. Their activities revolve around the re-appropriation of public space for purposes of entertainment, aesthetic delight, and political enlightenment. Their 'Guerilla Benching' projects have re-instigated public seating removed or not replaced, to improve civic space for the common good.

Immo Klink's photographs capture the relationship between newly "heightened states of public and private security" and "our changed psychological, political, and urban landscapes" in the 21st century. Klink has photographed the effects of increasing insecurity, from policing of public space at Mayday parades to the G8 summit for the last decade. Read Essay
from photographic series 'Disturbing Factors', 2007

Nick Relph & Oliver Payne's video 'Driftwood' is an alternative vision of how we can make sense of the city, and indeed the nation. Their unnamed narrator remarks: "navigate your city by an alternative means. Follow paths of smell, of sound, whatever. When a desire is a physical possibility, you must defy the stifling constraints of the social order and act upon your desire. Smash the symbols of the Empire in the name of nothing but the heart's longing for grace."

North + South
Nicola Koller, Matthew Butcher, Space Hijackers , Immo Klink, Oliver Payne & Nick Relph