The Turner Prize 2015, Europe’s most prestigious contemporary visual art award, was awarded to Assemble in Tramway, Glasgow on 7th Dec.
Assemble are a London-based collective who work across the fields of art, design and architecture to create projects in tandem with the communities who use and inhabit them. Their work addresses the relationship between people and the built environment. Assemble take a hands on, collaborative approach, and whilst their work usually includes design it rarely starts or ends there, often employing a range of means from the social to the infrastructural to make spaces which enable independence. “The city can be very dis-empowering; Assemble is interested in addressing the typical disconnection between people and the way buildings and infrastructure are made. Given that the built environment is man-made and malleable, our studio explores creative opportunities for people to shape their surroundings” said us Paloma Strelitz, Assemble.
Assemble won The Turner Prize 2015 for projects including the ongoing collaboration with local residents and others in the Granby Four Streets, Liverpool. Their work in Granby is part of an on-going collaboration with a group of residents who took control of their neighbourhood following years of managed decline and failed regeneration schemes. They reclaimed their streets through collective action and an accumulation of small-scale creative acts that extended from their homes into public space.
Assemble started working with this group in 2012, supporting their bid to take control of the empty houses on their streets and use them to drive further change. Their work spans a range of projects and roles, acting variously as designers, builders, artists and organisers.
They tell us that “it’s difficult to say where authorship begins and ends, it’s an on-going process that we are part of, alongside many others. In Granby, a culture of creativity is embedded in everyday life and has been used by residents to bring about remarkable change. In response to the Turner Prize nomination, we set up Granby Workshop to support and develop this culture, giving it new generative possibilities and a long-term home. The workshop uses the process of rebuilding the houses to contribute directly to rebuilding the social and economic infrastructure of the area. Granby Workshop is a place where things are learnt through making; as well as physical craft, it is a space for social, imaginative and political making. Work is on-going in Granby. More homes are currently underway, the empty shells of two houses will be turned into a community winter garden and residency space and new uses are being developed for Granby Street. Collectively, we hope these projects help offer a different way of seeing our environment where instead of seeming fixed, opaque or unquestionable, the city reveals itself as something authored and made, and something malleable, contingent and full of possibility. Objects made in Granby Workshop are now for sale, and profits from the sales will be used to kick-start the long-term life of the project”. “Assemble are the only ones who have ever sat and listened to the residents, and then translated their vision into drawings and models, and now into reality” said Erika Rushton, Chair of Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust.
Fran Edgerley, Assemble, adds “We are interested in how people can take ownership of public space, how they can understand how things are put together, through learning through making”.
Is It Art or isn’t? Assemble don’t care about it. “Sometimes we are artists, but sometimes we are activists, builders, or even plumbers. It’s the project which matters” explains us Maria Lisogorskaya, Assemble.
What’s ahead? They are continuing their work in Waltham Forest and making a building for Blackhorse Workshop which will create a new public front, provide more additional workspace and provide space for a new an expanded educational programme. Then they are developing plans and seeking sites in London for a new collaborative workspaces to support individual makers and small creative businesses in a series of collaborative spaces based around shared infrastructures and public spaces.
They have been commissioned by Goldsmiths’, University of London, to create a new public art gallery within a former Victorian bathhouse at Laurie Grove, New Cross and they are taking part in A Building for Bell Square, a new base for outdoor events and performances in Hounslow Town Centre. Outside of the events programme, the building will form a backdrop for the theatre of everyday life – a place to meet, a beacon for the public square.