I discovered a tiny new slice of London just a short walk away from Furtherfield. It was an unused car park tucked away on the edge of a commercial estate once host to a vibrant textile industry, transformed temporarily into a project space dubbed as Tottenham Pavilion.
For six weekends from August with its pop-up tent and rustic outdoor furniture, it hosted hands-on experiences on art-making which culminated in a public exhibition featuring an eclectic accumulation of pictures, texts, objects, and structures made on site by locals for locals.
A mixed media installation emerged as a focal point, sprawling under the marquee with bamboo sticks planted on blocks of concrete like the skeleton of a building under construction. Works on paper and textile hung like leaves on a tree: from collages of found images mixing religious iconography, mass media, and art history; to hand-stitched and woven fabrics gently combined with colourful beads; and zines with micro-stories in poetry and prose.
Elsewhere, there were sculptures made from styrofoam, wooden sticks, reflective sheets, and plaster that altogether seemed like artefacts from an ancient tribe; a figurative mural depicting a changing urban landscape with different buildings that seem to rise up and fall back unto itself; abstract paintings filled with familiar gestures of freedom laid by several hands; and a map of drawings by visitors attempting to visualise their journey to the site – altogether weaving a sense of place in an otherwise vacuous space.
It can be hard to tell where a body of work begins and ends, which may have been its strength. The works collectively function as a singular site-specific installation of disparate components tethered together by a shared conceptual and spacial approach.
Yet this idea is not a new concept as such. The Serpentine Pavilion in Hyde Park exists for roughly the same purposes; Peckham Levels in south London similarly transformed a seven-storey car park into a creative hub; and Furtherfield itself revitalised two spaces in Finsbury Park to decentralise art and technology. Well-known artists like Tania Bruguera and Jeremy Deller have also been known to engage with communities, often to much fanfare. All these projects are admittedly on a bigger scale in comparison, which is precisely what seems remarkable here.
Tottenham Pavilion embraced a hyperlocal focus to engage this community at their doorstep, specifically aiming its free workshops and activities to residents of its immediate vicinity encompassing Woodbury Down, Seven Sisters Road, and the Haringey warehouse of artists who led the project, all within walking distance of each other.
In doing so, it managed to not only provide local artists a platform to develop and showcase their practices conveniently within their own turf, but equally offer opportunities for local residents, their neighbours, access to creative activities that may otherwise be unavailable or even unknown to some. This ethos attracted much-needed funding from City Hall, which currently supports this agenda through a local funding stream, modest but nevertheless positive for an area that may be artistically underserved and missing out from the benefits of art.
There is always something new to explore in this city, and it is more rewarding when it involves maximising the potential of places and spaces as a conduit for accessible arts and culture. What began as an empty gazebo on a soulless patch of land ended up as a vessel for potent marks and traces between adjacent communities that for brief moments came together to make something for themselves, potentially activating new paths for connection and creativity within this locality and even beyond.
Tottenham Pavilion ran between 10 August and 15 September 2019, on Seven Sisters Road corner Eade Road. Organised by Carolina Khouri, with creative workshops led by SWG (creative writing), Surya de Wit (painting and collage), Helen Bur (murals), Nicola Woollon (embroidery), Wojciech Antoni Sobczynski (sculpture and installation), and Jenna Jardine (materials). Funded by Mayor of London’s Culture Seeds, and Spaces for Creatives.
Featured image: Tottenham Pavilion. Image credit West Creative