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July 2011

Social Archive One – Interview with Shiraz Bayjoo

Conversation with Shiraz Bayjoo by Inivator Tara Brown

Last week, I managed to meet with Shiraz Bayjoo to have a conversation about Social Archive One: An Economic Forecast (Shoreditch) and about his practice. The project has been two months in the making, and asks questions about economics, migration, class and society.

Shiraz has also been working with Providence Row for the last ten years, where the first Social Archive was created, collaborating with the homeless community in the area. I started the conversation just asking Shiraz what the social archive was about:

“The main purpose of creating the social archive of Shoreditch is to explore the area – its economic context and the impact of the current economic environment. Social Archive One asks local businesses about the nature of what they do, and their reasons for migrating to the area… all adding up to the social, geographical and physical makeup of the area. It’s not just about people but also about place, the issues of identity and the fracturing of identity, congregating in new places and making new alliances.

It’s an ambitious project in the timeframe allowed with a huge amount of work, researching the area and creating the archive. Because of its scope help is needed from the ‘citizen archiver’, bringing in the voices of people who may or may not know the area. The outcome hopefully is that people realise there’s a strong local community beneath the surface.”

When I asked what he thought about Shoreditch, Shiraz mentioned that side streets were becoming populated because of rising rental prices on the high street, and older businesses such as Syd’s coffee stall (on Calvert Avenue) were experiencing vandalism and are being slowly squeezed out.  Shiraz has also found lots of small lifestyle businesses, all different, some with a lot of image involved but a lot of honesty too.

“Although central London won’t become completely elitist, this social archive would be essential for plotting a pattern from the people who live and work there and where they’re from. The social archive will be online as well. It’s good to have them online – archives are only useful in this context if they are used or analysed by others. You don’t have to be an expert – it’s a very plural and democratic way of keeping an snap shot  of the present. I would like to see others expand and add to them.”

“The Social Archive has become part of my practice, growing into a much bigger scale, but anyone can do it. It is important when non artists do these projects it is a human transaction, a physical act of doing.”

Social Archive One with Shoreditch is not his first collaborative project and when I asked what draws him to this kind of work Shiraz says that his work explores issues of migration, identity, society in a visual way, and it’s important to work directly with people to gather a depth of understanding.

Watch the films here

Art & Economies: Social Archive One

What’s happening in our local community? We found out in Social Archive One



As part of our Art & Economies project, we wanted to focus on our local community. Invia is located in London’s East End in Shoreditch, an area that has seen immigrant groups moving to the area historically. Artists moved in for the cheap rents and this evolved to government introduced regeneration and now the area is well on its way to total gentrification. We invited members of the public and artist Shiraz Bayjoo to become social historians to document local histories and sentiments about the changing economies of the local area on film.

We found a group of leather makers who have been in the area since 1972 to a woman whose family have operated a tea stand since 1919.  Will either of these two firmly established business survive the influx of high end shops to the local area? 

Watch: www.youtube.com/user/InivaArts or www.socialarchiveone.com

Art & Economies: The Lucky Dip Exchange

What would you swap for a lucky dip? Shoreditch Festival 2011

As part the local Shoreditch Festival, Iniva decided to make lucky dipping available in exchange for the making of an item. Over the afternoon we received a range of items, from poems to 3D objects. People of all ages took part and found the exchange fun and welcoming. 

See some of the photos from the day as well as a gallery of items Iniva collected as part of the exchange at: http://www.iniva.org/events/2011/shoreditch_festival_2011

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Artist of the week: Shiraz Bayjoo

Artist Shiraz Bayjoo collaborates with members of the public in an exhibition of film and photography discovering economy in Shoreditch through the eyes of the local people

Albion, Redchurch St, photo by Shiraz Bayjoo

On 19 -23 July Social Archive One: An Economic Forecast (Shoreditch) will show at Rivington Place. Artist Shiraz Bayjoo devised this project as part of Iniva’s 3 year project Art at the Intersection: Art & Economies. It harnesses the talents of the general public in the creation of short films interviewing those living in, working in and visiting the area and exploring its changing economy.

Shoreditch is known as the trendy hub of East London, but it was not always so. Once a largely green area and then a slum, run down and undesirable, Shoreditch was not the centre for creative industries it is now, attracting swathes of tourists, revellers and shoppers every weekend.

Teams of aspiring filmmakers and social archivists were guided by Bayjoo to create a series of short interviews teasing out opinions on subjects such as the decline of manufacturing, the gentrification of the area, to questions like: ‘Is Redchurch Street going to be the new Brick Lane?’  Business owners interviewed on film range from the recently opened design shops, vintage shops, cafes, passersby to car park owners and leather goods manufacturers who have been here since the 1970s.

Other work by Bayjoo with Iniva has included the Workforce project which transformed Rivington Place’s Education Space into a temporary artist-run factory, making it the setting for a new workforce in response to exhibitions by NS Harsha and Chen Chieh-jen.

Workforce recreated the collectivising demand of industry as governments call their workforce to mobilise and unite under a common cause, that of nation building. Continuing the legacy of union banners and other collective symbols such as the red flag, Bayjoo brought his workers together beneath the banner of his artistic product. 261 workers contributed over 1000 hours of free labour.

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Art & Economies: further reading recommendation

The Wal-Mart Phenomenon: Resisting Neo-liberal Power through Art, Design and Theory

Through our research on the subject of economy and how creative practices explore the subject I came across this rather interesting book.  It is from 2008, so published right about the time that a few countries were facing a ‘financial crises’.  The book is edited by Benda Hofmeyr.

Book synopsis from the publisher Jan Van Eyck Academie:
Against the backdrop of Robert Greenwald’s documentary, WAL-MART. The High Cost of Low Pricethis multi-disciplinary yet cohesive volume calls upon intellectual, artistic and cultural producers themselves to oppose the progressive disappearance of the autonomous worlds of cultural production, cinema, publishing, etc., and therefore, ultimately, of cultural products themselves. It seeks to excavate the present-day workings of neo-liberal power and possible strategies of resistance. The contributors focus both on the documentary and artistic media used to reflect upon these phenomena as well as the actual socio-political and economic processes underlying them and following in their wake from the perspectives of art, design and theory (philosophy and social geography). 

To order:  Jan Van Eyck Academie

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Discovering Shoreditch past and present through film

Inivator Tara Brown explores Shoreditch with the Social Archive One filmmaking project

As someone born and raised in North West London, only moving to the ‘far east’ last summer, Shoreditch first appeared to me as if fully grown and always hipster. And so getting an opportunity to take part in creating a social archive – an economic map of this dynamic area – was definitely of interest to me.

I attended the second workshop on the first day with two other women in the group. After a quick introduction we went off on a flash history tour of Shoreditch and learnt about its transformation from a green and pleasant land to industrial overcrowding, destruction by WWII bombing to the trendy playground it’s become today. The tour was great, if only to orientate myself better. I’m so used to going in one straight line via Rivington Place to Hoxton / Dalston when actually Shoreditch is full of allyways, nooks and crannies to explore.

Back at Rivington Place we were introduced to artist Shiraz Bayjoo who gave us a quick lesson in using technical equipment and we were off, looking for businesses to interview and document. In independent hand bag shops, art galleries and places with no names at all, just addresses we met a variety of people and asked them about their business and the economics of Shoreditch.

Economics is a funny word; it seems to demand expertise and academic excellence on the subject, but in reality affects all of us so strongly we’ve got a view on it. This made all of our subjects shy, but with a bit of pressing we managed to get a sample of their struggles and successes. After a nervous start we all had a turn asking questions and had a rapport with everyone we met. We had our own struggles with the equipment as well – I was a bit rubbish on the camera and the battery ran out part way through the last interview. They were all fantastic and I hope we did them justice… They might even come to the screening – that would be absolutely brilliant.

I left leaving the workshop wanting to have a proper wander around the area, resting in Arnold Circus, site of the world’s first social housing structure, watching reliant robins whizz past by artisan bakers and jewellers. I had seen a new side to the town, a new sense of reality and true grit next to the shiny glass mountain range that is the City. I hope it stays that way, but it’s not Shoreditch’s style – I’ll just have to go along with it she decides to do next.

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Films created as part of Social Archive One: An Economic Forecdast (Shoreditch) will be exhibited at Rivington Place from 19 – 23 July, as well as online. There is a screening party on the evening of 21 July from 6:30 – 9pm, all welcome.

Tara Brown is one of the Inivators, a group of young creatives who work with Iniva’s Education Curator and professional artists to create exhibitions and events in response to Iniva’s main programme. Find out more about the Inivators programme here.

Art & Economies: Feral Trade project by Kate Rich

The Feral Trade Route

The Feral Trade Courier is a live shipping database for a freight network running outside commercial systems. It is a public experiment trading goods over social networks. Its aim is to open up routes for the passage of goods between diverse social settings, along which other information, techniques or individuals can potentially travel. New products are chosen for their portability, shelf-life and capacity for sociability. Feral Trade goods in current circulation include the coffee from El Salvador plus grappa from Croatia, tea from Bangladesh and fresh sweets from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Kate Rich is an Australian-born artist & trader. At the turn of the century, she  took up the post of Bar Manager at the Cube Microplex, Bristol UK where she launched Feral Trade. She is currently moving deeper into the infrastructure of cultural economy,  developing protocols to define and manage amenities of hospitality, catering, sports and  survival in the cultural realm.

Artist of the Week: Faisal Abdu’allah

Double Pendulum – the artist’s new film explores how exercise, identity and ritual are affected by the air we breathe

Double Pendulum, which is available to view until 17 July at the View Tube in East London, is a film about breathing and movement involving professional athletes and world-class leading scientists. It  is screened through a large-scale outdoor projection with the Olympic stadium as the backdrop as part of the CREATE 11 festival. Sports professionals illustrate and map the journey that air takes through the human form alongside an engaging narrative from world-leading scientists from King’s College London and Brunel University. Find out more about this Invisible Dust project here.

Faisal Abdu’allah has worked with Iniva several times; an example is the exhibition Veil which took place in 2003, which showed at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, and toured to Liverpool, Oxford and Stockholm. The exhibition examined the veil as one of the most powerful symbols in contemporary culture. Twenty artists and film-makers addressed the question of the veil in all its complexities and ambiguities, challenging any single or fixed cultural interpretation. Abdu’allah exhibited ‘The Last Supper’ as part of this exhibition.

Faisal Abdu’allah’s work primarily evolves from the interface of photography, the printed image and lens-based installations. He graduated in Fine Arts at the Royal College of Art in London and his work constantly repositions values and ideologies pertaining to representation. He is a senior lecturer in Fine art at the University of East London. He lives and maintains a studio in London. Visit the artist’s website.