Monday, 8 October 2012

Brownfield Ikebana Workshop with Anna Francis


Over the last 12 months, AirSpace has hosted a variety of workshops, with great success, and the latest in the line happened on Saturday - a "Brownfield Ikebana" workshop led by Ikebana master, Anna Francis. Though Anna showed an example in the recent AirSpace Studio Show, she had always intended that the workshop would actually be her contribution to the exhibition - a chance to get people to explore the phenomena of urban brownfields - areas of wilderness which spring up when demolition and halted regeneration programmes create large gaps in a city's fabric.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement and comes from the Japanese ikeru (生ける?, "keep alive, arrange flowers, living") and hana (?, "flower"). Possible translations include "giving life to flowers" and "arranging flowers".

The workshop started with an introduction to the art form, as Anna led the group through origins, types, techniques and everything to equip the participants with the ability to head off to the site of the city's old ABC cinema to collect vessels, and flowers/plants to create their own arrangements.

                        
                 
                     
the talk was accompanied by a selection of japanese sweets and authentic green tea
After the talk, the participants were each given their tools, a tray lined with wet newspaper to keep the collected greenery fresh and set off to the site for inspection and collection. Anna had informed that Ikebana is a site specific thing - in that the arrangement should be constructed with its intended site in mind - so the first job was to have a look at the part of the gallery that they were intended to be displayed in.

















We were on the site for a good 45 mins and it was really interesting to witness nature's reclamation of the land. Dozens of different plant-types which would normally be considered as weeds or wortless, but collectively made for a pleasant urban wild meadow - a refreshing visual break from the overly concrete retail nature of the modern city. 

Once done,  we headed back to the gallery to create the arrangements. Accompanied by soothing Japanese meditative music, the creations began. Reminders of shin soe and hikai, kenzan, angles - 75, 45 and 15 degrees - the correct height ratios of each element - so much to remember.



















Once made, each Ikebana was photographed in the gallery, and then an image printed out. Each participant left with a print and was emailed their image for future use. The collective Ikebanas were displayed on the Resource Room window for passers-by to appreciate.










It was a really interesting workshop. I was particularly struck by the interest of onlookers and passers-by generated by the activity. You could sense peoples' puzzlement at this group of people foraging and inspecting, cutting and gathering on a site that I imagine most people think is a bit of an eyesore, or a blot on the city's landscape. And, for me, this was the worth in this project. It acted as a prod - a highlighting of a phenomena that is repeated in cities all over the country - areas once occupied by buildings, and now left for nature to reclaim following demolition programmes and site clearances. Perhaps there is a future for these brownfield sites - maybe the natural reclamation could be seen as a successful land-use in its own right. 




                    

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