During the week of 18th-24th March 2019, the University of Bath Co-Creation team initiated an exhibitionentitledCo-Creating Cohesive Cities. Curated by Katie O’Brien at the 44AD Artspace in the centre of Bath, the exhibition included 52 images from previous Co-Creation workshops produced in collaboration with project partners in Europe and Latin-America. The exhibition, retraced narratives of those living in peripheral communities in Iztapalapa (Mexico City), the favela Santa-Marta (Rio de Janeiro), and Saint-Denis (Greater Paris). In addition, it included an 8-minute film created by Simon Wharf and Andrew Dunne, using some original footage by Simone Lopes. In this short film, Christina Horvath, Bryan Clift and Benjamin van Praag reflected on the experiences of a 5-day Co-Creation workshop held in Santa Marta in August 2018, while Andres Sandoval and Jo Davies shared their thoughts about co-creating poetry and graffiti in Mexico City. The film can be viewed in English at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_ZdpooKTMk&t=14s and with Spanish subtitles at http://www.bath.ac.uk/lmf/download/88274
A slide show by photographer Manuela Conti recreated some breath-taking views from Santa Marta’s high perched rooftop terraces (lajes) and the sharp contrasts between the favela’s informal architecture and the surrounding middle-class neighbourhood of Botafogo. A colourful graffiti produced on canvas by Benjamin van Praag, echoed the Bristol-based artist’s experience of working alongside Brazilian graffiti artists in Rio. A series of framed poems, written by students aged 13-15 in in December 2018 in an Iztapalapa secondary school with the support of Mexican government organisation ‘Alas y Raices’ (Wings & Roots), and a team of local poets from ‘Poesia y Trayecto’, showcased young people’s ambivalent feelings about growing up in an urban area associated with drugs, crime and violence.
A private view, held on Thursday 21st March, enabled local audiences to find out more about Co-Creation methods in conversation with members of the team, while enjoying the surprising effects produced by a slideshow of citiscapes and graffiti from the global South projected to the gallery’s elegant Georgian façade.
Despite its focus on disadvantaged neighbourhoods abroad, the exhibition also engaged with inequalities in Bath. Although this outwardly prosperous city is mostly known for its UNESCO World Heritage site, splendid Georgian architecture and cultural and sporting venues, it is not immune from social inequalities. As a fashionable spa town only miles away from the busy port city of Bristol, 18th-century Bath attracted rich plantation owners from Jamaica and Barbados, who indulged their profits in the city. The cityscape bears witness to wealth accumulated from the slave trade through commissioned buildings such as Beckford’s Tower, the Circus, the Royal Crescent, Queen Square or the Assembly Rooms. While present-day Bath attracts over 3.8 million day-visitors a year, in recent years it has also seen a sharp increase in the number of rough sleepers and beggars. Co-Creation has helped identify some of these issues. The “Anti-mapper workshop”, held in September 2017, had disrupted some of the city’s dominant narratives by adding alternative memoryscapes to the local tourist map. The exhibition promoted some further engagement with the city’s whitewashed narratives through a participatory collage workshop. Participants fused photographs from the favela Santa Marta with glossy images of the local Bath Life Magazine to draw attention to local issues including the museification of the city centre, skyrocketing property prices, homelessness, poverty or consumerism.