Sunday, 27 February 2011

there is beauty in the city goes to liverpool

The second in there is beauty in the city's 12 month tour of the U.K. saw us visit Liverpool. On the way there, a quick Google check unearthed a Lonely Planet article, written by David Else.

Being well acquainted with the city from numerous previous visits, we were aware that we wanted to find a way of discovering the beauty of Liverpool that was outside our existing knowledge. We again set ourselves an hour's time limit. We set upon the idea of asking at the Tourist Information office at Liverpool Lime Street Station. Last month, we asked the people of Nottingham for their ideas of their city's beauty and received some really personal responses. The idea of approaching the Tourist Information centre this month was to see if there would be a match with the civic view of a city's beauty. What would be the one part of Liverpool that  the city thought was beautiful above all others?

The office at the station no longer there, replaced with a stand of leaflets, so we followed the sign in the station directing us to its new location. 

Following a series of signs and information points and a visit to the closed-on-sunday central library we eventually found the city centre Tourist Information office, which was also closed.

Finding ourselves with only half of our hour left and our plan in an unworkable state, we decided to become tourists for the remaining time. The Cavern Quarter lay directly opposite this office and before long, we were deep in Beatles territory.
In truth, we were now in that tourist mode, which had never been our aim, but interestingly, in the light of some recent discussions about how a city has its own rhythms and movements, we were being almost imperceptably guided through this part of Liverpool.

A previous visit to Liverpool had seen it in celebratory mode, in the midst of its 2010 Biennale. Prior to that, too, the 2008 Capital of Culture had seen Liverpool as a thriving bustling, relevant global artistic city.

As the end of the hour fast approached, almost to the minute, we found ourselves standing in front of Richard Wilson's "Turning the Place Over" - the stand out £450,000 artwork which had brought a city building's degeneration into stark focus and had starred in the 2008 Capital of Culture.
Now,  after 3 and a half years and having been seen by more than 3.5 million people, it has stopped turning. Just a few moments before, we had seen a sign saying that the Liverpool Conservation Centre's public area had been closed due to government cuts. The sight of Wilson's seminal work in a state of ennui seemed to sum up this sentiment. Here, it seemed was a living embodiment of the effect that the swingeing cuts are having on the legacy of a movement such as the Capital of Culture.

Having said that, the work, even in its stationary state, is still beautiful, and it is this image that we decided was our beauty in the city of Liverpool.

Check back next month to find out which U.K. city falls under the there is beauty in the city spotlight.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

kathleen hennessy - san francisco, usa

San Francisco is a city full of beautiful, provocative murals and street art. The Mission District neighborhood is especially known for this and there is an alley completely filled with different, amazing murals for everyone to enjoy. As I walked along I noticed the back doors of people's homes opening onto the alley and that those doors were also painted on, only I couldn't tell if an artist had done it, taking liberties using someone else's door as a canvas, or if the homeowner did it to keep the visual peace, or perhaps participate in the art at its back door. Either way, their door now belonged to anyone wanting to express themselves in this alley full of art. I kept wondering if that annoyed them or made them happy. This image is of one of those colorful back doors.
This is an image taken of a mural in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco. I love the rich, bright colors as it feels appropriate to the climate of this city that was famous for Haight Ashbury Love Ins in the 1960s. Someone has added graffiti in red to this mural, which is both a shame, and something that adds another dimension to the piece. Altogether, I found it a very appealing collage of statements. This is a city where almost everyone "writes on the walls".

This is another image taken from the alley full of murals where someone has tried gating their backdoor for safety. I found it to be an interesting, layered, accidental art piece with its various textures of metal, peeling paint, graffiti, and paper in the form of the faded Priority Mail envelope stuck into it. Was that deliberate? A statement about the U.S. postal service? Or a found object added for specific meaning? I enjoyed the mystery of it.

Walking along the city streets with a friend, I stopped to photograph this handmade doorbell sign which looked so wonderful next to the rusty mailbox slot and the ornate grey metal gate. So many different textures and designs going. But what I loved most was that someone wrote in a felt pen on masking tape the word "Doorbell" with an arrow in the middle pointing to the hard to find button. I had been noticing that same day that there were many handmade signs like this, even in restaurants, where someone just quickly wrote in a Sharpie pen, on any scrap of paper they had at the moment, some instruction to the obviously clueless public. These are not formal, nicely computer printed signs, but hand done, off the cuff spontaneous writings to solve some kind of apparently ongoing issue that needs a little personal explaining. I love the humanity of that.

In San Francisco, the bicycle has become a kind of icon for the ever increasing bike friendly nature of the town. We are a town of bike messengers, of environmental advocates supporting green ways to travel, of people who believe in exercising on their way to work, of people who just like to ride and have the ability to skip through all the vehicle traffic. Is there any rivalry between cars and bikes? You bet. On the last Friday of every month, during evening commute hours, an organized group of thousands of bicyclists, called Critical Mass, take to the streets pedaling away, tying up vehicle traffic, and occasionally sparking angry incidents, some verbal, some physical, between cyclists and drivers, keeping the city alive with colorful, spirited debate.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

there is beauty in the city : la conversación - #2

No. 2 in a series of conversations with Bilbao's Igor Calvo

igor calvo - photograph #2
Sometimes I think about the city as if the landscape of an old abandoned mine would be, through whose layers and traces we can study and learn about the different stages of its development.
In Bilbao, as in Stoke-on-Trent and many other cities that share a similar past, there are a lot of references to its industrial past and the impact its industry had and still has in the development of the city.
However, I think we often forget that Bilbao's history goes back much further than the last century and a half.
And, although it played an extremely relevant role in it industrial past, we often forget that it was Bilbao’s estuary, la Ría, the one that has accompanied and shaped the character and the development of the city throughout its history.
Here, at the end of the Zorrozaurre peninsula, with the last relics of industry behind me and the reflection of one of the few factories that still remains near the city in front of me, I wonder if I find myself in the last halt to the river that would allow me to go down to the water and catch a boat to leave the city behind, if so I do wished.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

there is beauty in the city goes to nottingham

Last Sunday saw there is beauty in the city take to the streets of the UK with the first in a series of 12, monthly city visits to find the urban beauty and to spread the word. We had asked for some suggestions on our facebook page and the first reply came from Céline Siani Djiakoua who has recently moved to Nottingham and promised us some cake for our troubles!
We arrived in Nottingham and set about our mission: to ask the public, "where is the beauty in the city of nottingham?". Our aim was to find a consensus - the one spot which was more popular than all the others, which we would then find and photograph. We set ourselves a time limit of an hour and, armed with a score of magnet packs, a clipboard and a camera, we set about asking as many Nottinghamites as possible. Each respondant was offered a magnet pack as thanks for their time and involvement.


Car Park Attendant - The castle because of the grounds or The Royal Concert Hall for the architecture

Young Barman - The castle - it is the only green area in the centre apart from the Arboretum, which is further out.

Young Couple (goths) no photo - Wollatton Park - you get the no. 36 bus to get there. It's nicer than the castle because it's massive. The castle is a bit of a disappointment. There's a reason why they never filmed Robin Hood in the Castle grounds.

Old Lady on Bench - no

Old Rockabilly with Luminous Specs - no, have a train to catch.

Radical Couple - The castle is beautiful, or down by the canal. The Trent Bank is really beautiful. The architecture in the city centre is beautful if you look up, there's a real juxtaposition of ugly and beautiful. The city edges are beautiful, and the secret park - we've heard that's beautiful, but we've never found it.
Radical Lady - The ugliest building in Nottingham is Nottingham Contemporary, it was a complete waste of money. When they were building it I thought that the outside was just a hoarding and they would take that down to reveal something beautiful inside, but it turned out THAT was IT! I couldn't believe it, it is so ugly.

Young Couple - The old council building was beautiful but it's covered in scaffolding.

Lovely Guy - If you go up that street to the left there's an area with all the churches and the cathedral, but I love the Lace Market.

Adam the Busker - I love this square where we are now.

Glamorous Lady - My heart - I love people - I love Life - I love everything, I walk a lot and I love everything.

Litter Collector - Good question - Nowhere in Nottingham is beautiful.

Cool Guy with Star Earring - The lace market, it's quiet, it's tidy, it's cleaner. Walk with me - I'll show you. It's for people who've got money, or people who haven't - you can buy things for £20 or £2. It's the main attraction, it's peaceful.

Painter and Decorator - This is the only building I know here, I'm from Milton Keynes.

Lovely Lady with Long eyeLashes - You've asked the right person! The lace market. The Pitcher and Piano used to be an old cathedral and it's a restuarant now. I am a dressmaker and there are buildings with dressmaking schools - in the old lacemakers - they used to be so loud, full of noise when they were working.

Young Couple outside Nottingham Contemporary - The lace market for how it used to be.

Bohemian Couple outside Nottingham Contemporary - St. Mary's Church - the oldest part of Nottingham, that's still been left and has a lovely old wall and Regency Buildings.

Gallery Invigilator (Sam from Tether) - The Victoria Centre Car Park, where the old train line used to go - it's dug into a cliff. I was trying to think of something that was not too arty.

Minutes : 60
Asked : 18
Responded : 16
Posed for photograph : 12
Nottingham Contemporary - where we met Sam from Tether
And the consensus? The Lace Market, a bustling, thriving, cool area, housing a national class art gallery and numerous bars and restaurants, helping Nottingham feel like a truly beautiful city. The area was full of really wonderful architecture, but the building below struck us as a beautiful signifier of the city's past and, if treated to a bit of love and respect, an obvious role to play in its future.

And so that wraps up there is beauty in the city : on tour #1. Tune in next month, when Manchester, as voted for by Contents May Vary's Alice Bradshaw comes under the spotlight.