Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Small Change - 'They forced us out of here: Walking the routes of the displaced'

Continuing the previous entry, you can read here more about Network Nomadic Architecture's walking action 'They forced us out of here: Walking the routes of the displaced' which took place in Athens, in June 2013. The video of the action is currently on show as part of Small Change, at AirSpace Gallery until the 7th of December.

Eleni Tzirtzilaki, Cartografie

NomadikiArchitektoniki (Nomadic Architecture Network):

consist of: 
Eleni Tzirtzilaki, Christina Thomopoulou, Aggeliki Vakali,  Sofia Grigoriadou, Kostas Plessas , Hristina Thomopoulou, Passtrespass , Panagiotis Andronikidis, Aggelos Skourtis, Lin Edmonds, Eleni Tzirtzilaki, lLana Giannakou, Patricio Villareal ,Stefanos Handelis ka.

Along the lines of a situationist approach of engaging with the city, Network Nomadic Architecture's walks blur the boundaries between art and life and open up spaces to engage with the city in different and creative ways. 

Ephemeral communities and shared urban experiences emerge, as dwellers encounter and join the walks along the way.  

The streets where this particular action was held constitute the old core of the city and host a.o. small shops by migrants or their informal gatherings and activities. The area has known an increase in the presence of police forces, as large-scale occupations and hunger strikes had taken place by those seeking legalisation and a temporary 'home' (for example, the Athens appeals court was occupied by 500 people) and whole groups have been arrested and sent to camps. 

Interrupting the narrative of displacement happening in the centre of Athens, these walking actions, where poems are recited, flowers are given to passers-by,  exchange of goods and stories happens, say that the city belongs to all its users.

They forced us out.Walking the road of displacement. Walking action.

Operation 'Xenios Zeus', aka forcing immigrants out of Athens and into camps, was launched in August 2012 when the city seemed to have been all but abandoned. But it was not just the immigrant population that was being swept away: HIV positive women had come before them, prostitutes, and drug users, the homeless, and street vendors who are still the focus of a crackdown...
So the city's streets and squares have been cleared and public space has been immersed in fear.
New projects are being launched by OLIAROS in collaboration with the City of Athens, such as 'Rethink Athens' and 'Re-Map Metaxourgio', building up to the gentrification of parts of the city and the continued displacements this implies.
But such projects probe deep into the skin/ground of the city.
The children of the Others will not be allowed to sit their exams this year since their parents have no residence permit and are unemployed. These children are denied their right to an education; school is yet another place from which they are banished.
This just adds to the sad list of things happening in Athens, like the attacks on migrants by members of the ultra right Chrysi Avgi.
We invite you to join us on a silent walk across the center of the city, starting from the site of the free self-organized theater Embros and finishing in Exarcheia (at the Social Center on Tsamadou St.  where a discussion will follow). Let us share stories, exchange poems and songs, insist that the city belongs to all its inhabitants with no exceptions made, no exclusions allowed, and that every man and woman has rights.

Saturday, June 1, 2013, 17:00, 'Embros' Free Self-organized Theater- Menandrou street  

Itinerary: Riga Palamidi and Sarri St. - Menandrou St. - Theater Square – Aghiou Konstantinou St. - Omonia Square – Patission St. - Stournari St. - Exarcheia Square – Social Center (Network for the Support of Immigrants and Refugees – 13, Tsamadou St., discussion).  

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Small Change - An Occupation as a Small Beginning

In the first of a series of posts exploring themes around Small Change, exhibition curator Sevie Tsampalla gives us some valuable insight in to a very relevant case study.


An Occupation as a Small Beginning

How an Autonomous Space Re-builds the Sense of Community in Athens

Network Nomadic Architecture is one of the collectives participating in the exhibition small change. Together with other groups of artists and residents they have re-activated Embros, a historical theatre building in Athens, which was desolate and left empty for five years by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The walking action by Network Nomadic Architecture on show at AirSpace gallery starts from Embros and follows the difficult journey of displaced people to find their way to the city. In Athens, immigrants and other vulnerable groups (drug users, homeless, prostitutes) are being chased as individuals or groups out of the city centre, whenever certain areas are being gentrified or 'polished' on the occasion of important events.

Since it came under collective occupation, in 2011, the theatre has hosted numerous performances and events, which are offered for free to the general public. Functioning not only as a cultural hub, but also as a self-organised space, Embros is run by a weekly assembly, open to all those who believe that the theatre should remain in public hands.

The building dates from the 1930's and was once the base of a printing press company. It is a listed monument, owned by the state. As the privatisation of national properties has gained ground due to the financial crisis, the state is planning to rent the theatre for unknown private uses. The privatisation agency has recently padlocked the building, while the police arrested two actors who were rehearsing in it on October 30 2013.

Psirri, the area where the theatre is situated saw a transformation in its economy in recent decades, when the small industries and arts and crafts workshops were replaced by a monopoly of restaurants and bars. But today, Psirri is not so 'fresh' and the entertainment business has moved its focus
to other areas in Athens, leading to a further decline of the area.

Embros is a strong voice of community-building against developer-led gentrification and cultural commercialisation in the area. The re-activation of the theatre is a suggestion for Embros as a “common good” in Athens, as Eleni Tzirtzilaki, architect from Network Nomadic Architecture argues. A place of exchange, free circulation of ideas and collaborative practices. A place accessible to everyone. At Embros, a network of multiple communities is woven together: a community of interest, as residents bond through the theatre and get to have a say in the decision-making around the collective heritage of their neighbourhood; a community of practice, as artists of diverse disciplines explore ways of
co-producing art; and a community of resistance that acts for a placemaking that is inclusive.

Small Change -the book- is about a bottom-up way of thinking about the city. Forming communities and making the city together starts with small efforts. small change -the exhibition- looks at what art and collective action do to change things around us.

To support Embros, you can sign this online petition:

For more visit:

Friday, 8 November 2013

'Small Change' Introduces Plus-tôt Te laat and Spectacle by Zo Maltby-Baker

In the final instalment of her introductions to the Small Change artists, Zo Maltby-Baker highlights the works of Plus-tôt Te laat and Spectacle.

Plus-tôt Te laat 

The diverse and non-hierarchical collective from Brussels, founded in an unemployment office in 1998,  initially focused on the politics of institutional neglect of artists in financial need, the group expanded its collaborative approaches to address social and urban urgencies in Brussels through video, text and posters. 

Can the state serve as a model?

"When, in 1988, everyone who was redundant in the borough of Sint-Joost in Brussels was handed a form warmly inviting jobseekers to make their contribution towards brightening up their employment office, we felt that as far as we were concerned, the sooner the whole system of signing on was ditched, the better. We were not impressed by this attempt to make this extremely humiliating form of social control more bearable by way of holding an exhibition.
There was something wrong with the official invitation: a number of artists had appeared in the newspaper because they were at odds with an important aspect of the regulations on acceptable activities during periods of unemployment (*). At the time, engaging in art activities as an unemployed person was permissible only in relation to family, or … between eight o’clock at night and six o’clock in the morning. Any activity not associated with seeking employment or which hampered your availability on the job market, was in contravention of the law. It gave politicians and administrative authorities a fine weapon with which to cut off an unemployed person’s entitlement to benefits. Perhaps they simply didn’t care. In any case, if you were unemployed and enjoyed being creative, you were only allowed to be so between eight o’clock in the evening … etc. Enrolling in art classes at night school was also something you kept to yourself. Hyperactive inspectors (O.I.) would keep tabs on whether the lights in your work room were turned on and cut out articles on your exhibition from the newspaper. It helped to upgrade their personal suspension records (**). This was a fine damper on your right to freedom of expression. If you were redundant, you joined the underground resistance movement before you knew it. In the meantime, nobody realised that artists, like other people who were unemployed, acquired a benefit at the end of their scholarship, or after having been a wage earner for two years." 
For the commpleate introduction statement for Plus-tôt Te laat website follow this link

The Window with another view: 2005


Almost all the images we see in public places are linked to commercial messages. Posters PTTL represent the opposite: they are artistic expressions made public. We can therefore speak of "social advertising".
Pasting "opinions" on the walls of the city, posters PTTL into political posters, an "advertisement" containing a social and human message first. Commercial and ideological language is thus deconstructed in a humorous way. The viewer is in fact not a customer.
We can read these messages being quite "comfortable in civilization."
The posters displayed by PTTL are all painted on paper painting which has the effect of returning us to the "inside". By posting in the streets, these images crééent contradictions that operate in a "alienante" (translation of the German term "Vehrfremdung").
The simplicity of the formal language suggests the children's drawings. Thus the distance between the artist and the viewer is reduced to a minimum. The diversity of languages ​​drawn and painted, and the selected media, make these posters become personal opinions to the public. A reaction to "Advertising upholstering."
"The door of the office, she is mine" is a phrase sung by PITCHO rapper Brussels. The have been written on painted for us the beginning of the organization of resonances resistant system. "Paper I've seen kids or teens who, while walking, let slip their fingers on the wall and tear it carelessly which appears on their path. Vandalism or capture the joy and pleasure of touching ... " (Manu Head)

Advertising is temporary, the destruction of posters can be seen as a form of "participation unconscious"

Marc Schepers and Leen Derks
This text first appeared in the exhibition posters PTTL in ruimte MORGUEN
Waalse kaai 21-22.2000 Antwerpen 
"Lekker thuis in the beschaving." 
3 February -19 March 2005.
In parallel to the presentation in Ruimte Morguen, some posters were visible in PTTL blocks of social housing "Europark", and the service center "Ter Welen" Rue Ernest Claesstraat, Antwerp Left Bank.
(Text translated by Axel Claes and Emmanuel Head)

Interventions at the unemployement office of St-Joost-ten Noode

1998-2000: overvloedstraat 19
2000-2005: middaglijnstraat 23

Website -
Links to artist and Collectives who have been involved with Plus-tôt Te laat -


Spectacle is an independent television production company specialising in documentary, community-led investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle programmes have been broadcast across Europe, Australia and Canada and have won international awards. Spectacle also distributes independent video tapes, provides facilities to independent producers and training workshops on media studies, production and community based media.

Spectacle's blog on urbanism, human rights and social justice.

This is a blog that I have come across before and found incredible informative. I recommend having a look at the continuing blog about Battersea Power 

The misleading power of PR

Impact -- Making a difference to our environment. Commissioned Films by Spectacle Documentaries 



A film made by London's Climate Change Youth Ambassadors. This exciting environmental volunteering programme supports 16 - 25 year olds to communicate their climate change and environmental concerns to their local communities. This is achieved through local events, multimedia, music, arts, and intergenerational projects. Groundwork London engages the volunteers to take part in workshops, inspirational visits and knowledge building activities to learn more about climate change and sustainable living. Commissioned film by Spectacle Documentaries.
To watch the ducumentry follow this link:

Website -
Twitter -
Youtube -

Small Change - Claire Weetman and Network Nomadic Architecture - by Zo Maltby-Baker

In the penultimate post in the series of short introductions to the  artists and collectives featuring in Small Change at AirSpace Gallery, Zo Maltby-Baker's spotlight falls on Claire Weetman and Network Nomadic Architecture.

Claire Weetman 

Claire has been commissioned to realise new work in public space, responding to issues of placemaking in Stoke-on-Trent.


Claire studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University (2003). She is a founder member of POST Liverpool, a co-curatorial group of female artists working internationally with European Capital of Culture Cities. 

In 2011 she co-founded the artist-led studios and artist network Platform Art St Helens in her home town. 

Since 2009 Claire Weetman has worked internationally on exchanges, residencies and exhibitions including Linz (AT), Schiedam (NL), Istanbul (TR) and in November 2012 as artist in residence at Shanghai Fine Art University (CN) as part of the METAL International Residency Award to Shanghai.

"Claire Weetman is interested in how her art can be created in public spaces, in the places where the movement that she follows takes place. When situating herself in these locations, she creates interventions that not only document movement, but also seeks to alter the day-to-day movement of people within that space; Lines of water painted onto the floor that people feel the need to jump over, a pedestrian needing to alter their course to pass the artist at work or an audience member 'playing' with the artist drawing a line to see who is in control. Weetman uses drawing processes combined with interventions in public spaces, responding to, recording, measuring and altering movement. Using bold calligraphic lines combined with video projections, she records the motion of people on everyday journeys;  Flowing pencil drawings, charting transient and fleeting traces, noting how movement alters according to environment; Interventions into public spaces interact with an audience by both measuring and interrupting natural movement. Much of Weetman's work is created in a live context, which reflects her wont to document the transient and temporal. This transience translates into notions of presence and absence such as in the fading water traces painted onto a floor in Watermark or the empty outlines that are suggested in her earlier One Minute drawings.In 2012 Weetman became aware that the verb 'trace' and it's literary definitions was a core tenet of her work. The concepts within those descriptions - following a course, marking a position, superimposing lines over things, outlining people and objects - have run through Weetman's entire portfolio of work since 2002 and continue in her most recent works" has produced so much interesting work that it was difficult for me to narrow it down to which ones to share, highly recommend that you visit her website and have a look at all of the work she has produced and been involved with. 

Migrate: 2013
"How do public spaces shape population movement on micro and macro scales?  The Migrate 'prints, are made considering large scale population flows, how mass numbers of people are forced to move from one place to another and how these movements are shaped by natural geography or man made environments.  The one-off prints are created using custom-made rubber stamps, applied repeatedly to the page building up tone and flow." 

3 Masses. 59x84cm
Southern Cross.  59x84cm

Exodus (Syria) 59x84cm



 Crossings: 2006-07


Crossings investigates travelling through a space to document it with a line. Lengths of hessian string have measured the bridges that cross the River Mersey and have been wound into self supporting sculptural columns, each tagged with the location of the crossing.

                                       "Crossings" installed at The Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn.

Network Nomadic Architecture 
"The Network Nomadic Architecture is an open research laboratory based in Athens, Greece. It is an interdisciplinary network consisted of architects artists, collectives, groups and individuals. Network Nomadic Architecture is interested in public space, territories under crisis, urban transformations and their cultural, social and political extensions. It tries to find methods, practices and conceptual tools for architects to intervene in the contemporary city."

Below is an excerpt from there website about there current Research, 

The center of Athens and its transformation.

How can art assist the situation?

Coordinator: Eleni Tzirtzilaki, Organisation: Nomadic Architecture Network, Georgia Alexandri, Stefanos Handelis

By examining the transformation of the centre of Athens through its contradictions, we concluded that institutions were dysfunctional. Our research focused on the role of art and its potential for contributing to coexistence and multiple belongings by means of innovative practices.

This research project is funded by the Latsi Foundation.

" The actions of Nomadic Architecture take place in public space and in urban voids. They connect the body with the earth of the city through actions of walking, silence, reciting of poems, songs and movement. They connect the participants with those who inhabit the city leading a “bare life”, as they are being increasingly excluded by meta-capitalism. Through these actions Nomadic Architecture suggests a temporary cohabitation in the city based on common goods and free collectivities, which give alternative meanings to our lives."

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Small Change - Lauren O'Grady and Neighbourhood Association Quartier Midi - by Zo Maltby-Baker

Small Change opens at AirSpace this Friday 8th November, and in her continuing look at the exhibition's contributing artists, Zo Maltby-Baker highlights the works of Lauren O'Grady and Collective Quartier Midi an artists group from Belgium working in the public realm.

Lauren O'Grady
Lauren navigates a world of contradictions, weaving narratives, implying unusual or phenomenological events. Trying to understand her own aspirations and limitations by looking at shared experiences, fears and concerns: social, economic, environmental and political. Creating varying plains and facets of reality and fiction.
Lauren's sculptural-esque works  are an eclectic mix of mediums which play with the imagination. She was the Resident Artist at Studio B5, as well as being involved in a number of  group exhibitions,

Nottingham Castle Open – Sept/Oct 2012
World Event Young Artist: Selected to show in Paul Smith’s flag ship store – Sept 2012
CUBEOpen, CUBE Gallery Manchester – Dec 2011

Flout, Axis Arts Centre Crewe – Sept 2011
This Impossibly Conjured World, Glove Box Bristol – Apr 2011
Pile, Chapter Cardiff – Feb 2011
To find out more about Lauren's Practice visit her website @

Lauren's work in her own words: 
"Borrowing from languages already established in cinematography, model making, folklore, history, science fiction, modern sculpture, architecture, landscape painting and museology, I fabricate scenarios and artefacts. They are familiar to the point of unfamiliarity, imagery compiled and accumulated from memory. Capturing a moment in object form, future relics of past events, commenting on the collector and the collected. I navigate a world of contradictions, weaving narratives, implying unusual or phenomenological events. I try to understand my own aspirations and limitations by looking at shared experiences, fears and concerns: social, economic, environmental and political. Creating varying plains and facets of reality and fiction. I consciously model without an image or reference; I want the models to be strange, warped representations of the real thing not faithful copies. I make sculpture in an attempt to physically capture and collect something: a vision, a spectacle, a sentiment, an impression. In an attempt to grasp an idea of vastness I play with scale, allowing myself, and the viewer, a way in. I enjoy the idea that something model sized can transport you in your imagination or visually (in film) somewhere else. It can make a tiny model seem like a huge space. I think of myself as an explorer, a somewhat fearful one. Drawing parallels between expeditions and the way in which I approach making work. Putting everything I have into achieving something that can often seem unachievable."
Here are a couple of Lauren's works that caught my attention.
First Light 2012

                                                        50cm x 50cm x 50cm (approx)
"This is a moving installation - the modelled clay sits on a spinning platform in front of the light creating movement in the shadows cast on the floor." 

Only give me back the world I threw away 2010

                                                           77cm x 63cm x 52cm

"This work is a set of sculptures (3 in total). The title for the piece was taken from the novel, 'A Far Sunset' by Edmund Cooper." 
 Quartier Midi (BE)
"Quartier Midi (BE) is a neighbourhood association (Comité) from the area around Brussel’s South (Midi/Zuid) railway station. Acting within a context of private and state-led investments, it opposes house demolitions in order to build office buildings and shopping malls. The association visualises its efforts and exposes the politics behind the area’s transformations through a series of video’s and posters that are created collaboratively."
Brussels-Midi, the Planning and sacrifice bits of string - A book Gwenaël Brees

"Brussels-Midi, the Planning and sacrifice bits of string" was written from experiences, stories and testimonials from people, interviews with various stakeholders in the issue, as well as abundant written records and audiovisual (articles and press reports, correspondence, minutes of political debates, legal texts, prescribed urban, court documents, progress reports, etc..)."

I Recommend that you give this a read i'm about half way through, it is an highly informative, 

" look back at the political and financial saga, still unfinished and which led to the demolition of the south district. Through a thorough and documented investigation, this book reveals the below one of the largest urban fiasco of the past two decades in Belgium."

Find out more about Quartier-Midi @

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Small Change - Introducing artists Jane Lawson and Noor Nuyten - by Zo Maltby-Baker

Jane Lawson and Noor Nuyten are two of the artists that make up the 'Small Change' exhibition that opens November 8th - December 7th at AirSpace Gallery.  

Jane Lawson

My work attempts to make visual sense of the complex processes and systems underpinning human existence; and I also seek to embody alternatives to the dominant cultural narrative which claims that the present economic system, although flawed, is our only realistic option.
Alongside these interests, I have an abiding fascination with materials; the sensual exploration of substance provides an invaluable counterweight to the analysis of information.
There is a strong political edge to my work, informed by my experiences as political activist and researcher into corporate ethics, but I try to avoid didacticism, preferring to present situations and possibilities and let the viewer draw their own conclusion. Notwithstanding this, I want my work to in some way contribute to a change in our social organisation. I believe that art’s capacity to communicate beyond the limits of language can open up new ways of experiencing and imagining the world, and that through imagination we can bring other realities into being. 
Additionally, Jane runs Castlefield Gallery Associates -  a membership scheme for artists, writers and independent curators working in contemporary art.  It has been developed by Castlefield Gallery to support members in developing their work and careers by providing information, skills, opportunities, resources, promotion and critical dialogue. 

Jane has been involved with numerous projects and Gallery exhibitions. Here are a few of my favourites. All information can be found at her website and I also recommend checking out her blog, a great perspective of an artist's process.

The Heinrich Event: Collaborative residency in Rogue Project Space.

The Heinrich event was a collaborative project between artists Annie Harrison, Roger Bygott and Fiona Donald which was named after the climatic phenomenon of "sudden cooling that occurred at regular intervals during the last Ice Age, triggering a partial collapse of the Northern ice sheets and sending armadas of icebergs floating south.

Timeline of global climate/human/apple history

Golden Continents

Tory Cuts Mind Map, Cuts and Grazes, the Art Corner, Manchester 2011

"Cuts and Grazes is an exhibition of ten emerging artists from Manchester, Salford, London and Hove.  The artists were selected from a call for submissions asking artists to respond to the recent spending review.  ‘Cuts and Grazes’ was conceived to highlight the public’s reaction to the recent spending cuts, presenting a ‘Creative View of the Spending Review’."

Tory Cuts Mind Map 3.5 x 3m

Noor Nuyten

Noor Nuyten (1986, Netherlands) graduated from the HISK, Ghent in 2011.
Recently she showed her work at the Ithuba **Art International Istanbul, **Arts Gallery in Johannesburg, Kunsthalle Münster and Upstream Gallery Amsterdam.*

Two notable pieces of work - 

A 0 °C Globe (2013)

A 0 °C Globe (2013)
Model of a globe made out of frozen water, globe’s standard.
The frozen water melts as soon as the temperature rises above 0 °C.
Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij

A 50 °C Horizon (2010)

A 50 °C Horizon (2010)
Two thermometeres of 50 °C, 60 x 4 cm
When it is 50 °C the red line, the horizon, will be finished.

Please note that Noor's website is under construction, but be patient and take a look when its up, as her work is worth the wait. In the mean time all you need to do is come along to AirSpace Gallery to see for yourself. 

Website -

Gallery's -

Small Change - Introducing the Artists and Collectives - by Zo Maltby-Baker

small change  is a response to the book Small Change by architect Nabeel Hamdi and focuses on change and placemaking in the city, seen both as a physical and imagined entity. It comprises a group exhibition featuring existing and new work by four artists, a public intervention and a talk and an Artist Soup Kitchen delivered by Professor Nabeel Hamdi.
Alongside the artists, four collectives, from the UK and beyond, contribute to the exhibition with audiovisual material that documents their engagement with the public realm.
In the week of install, AirSpace Gallery Associate, Zo-Maltby Baker will be highlighting the artists and collectives involved in small change, the exhibition.

So here is the first preview of those artist chosen to be a part this Exhibition, “which is a response to the book Small Change by architect Nabeel Hamdi and its main idea that small-scale actions have the power to bring about positive change in urban communities.

For more information on these artists and collectives follow the links and read their intros throughout this week.

Today’s post introduces the collectives,  Buddleia / public works


Buddleia is a Non-Profit Organization based in Manchester, a commissioning agency for art in the public realm. Set up in 2010 by independent curator Kerenza McClarnan, Buddleia focuses on “social understanding of the public realm. Delivering bold, life-changing art in public spaces.”

“Buddleia takes a collaborative approach to commissioning by shaping a process that allows artists, residents and agencies to work together. There approach, “embraces people art and place through artist’s commissions, residencies and projects. We also offer consultancy and expertise in urban and social enquiry and deliver regular symposium and critical events.

Find out more about them at the following links

Torange Khonsar founder of Public Works. The Iranian born British educated architect, has been the senior lecturer in architecture at London metropolitan university since 2000. She has run many international workshop and has spoken at the UN Habitat conference. 

Walk by Torange Khonsari, 'Can We Live the Green Dream?' Exemplar Talks and Walks 
Exemplar Properties, Design for London, Somerset House,2008

Here are a couple of the works/publications that Torange has been involved in.

The Whitechapel Gift Shop is mixed use development that combines a public cultural programme with private living. The back, private space was then reconstructed with collected objects, furniture and building materials with previous history. Performance of "Plastic" in collaboration with 30 bird productions was planned for the end of the building works in March 2010

Cross Country", a public works project for Wysing Arts Centre

34 Pages
29,7 x 21 cm
Editor: public works

There are numerous publications and lectures that Torrange has been involved in, the most interesting one that I have come across is a lecture called, “Art and Architecture – A public initiative” which I would recommend reading. It can be found at the link below.

To Find out more about Public Works and Torange Khonsar Please follow the links below:

Small Change - Nabeel Hamdi

Nabeel Hamdi qualified as an architect at the Architectural Association in London 1968. He worked for the Greater London Council between 1969 and 1978, where his award-winning housing projects established his reputation in participatory design and planning. 1981 to 1990 he was Associate Professor of Housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was later awarded a Ford International Career Development Professorship.

In 1997 Nabeel won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour for his work on Community Action Planning. He founded the Masters course in Development Practice at Oxford Brookes University in 1992 which was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2001. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2008. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Housing and Urban Development at Oxford Brookes University and teaching fellow at The Development Planning Unit, University College, London. He has been an Arup Fellow at the University of Cape Town and is adjunct professor at the National University of Technology, Trondhiem, Norway. (source:

Hamdi's 2004 book, Small Change, has been highly influential in describing the role that informality plays in urban life. It sets out a way of thinking on cities that gives precedence to small-scale, incremental change over large-scale projects. He shows how the trickle-down effect advocated by conservatives everywhere does not produce the sort of large-scale changes that are predicted. It is instead the trickle-up effect of self-organised systems that produce the biggest changes. He uses examples from cities in the global South, writing of how the smallest change such as the installation of a bus-stop that results in a group of people waiting, induces a whole host of small-scale economies such as people selling food or drinks, or the provision of street lighting around which children gather to complete their homework due to the lack of electricity at home, means that sweet and book sellers appear in the area hawking their wares.Hamdi's own practice has always used the tactic of small-scale change at grass-roots level, whether in his early housing work with the Greater London Council that tested ideas on participatory design and planning, or his later work as consultant to various governmental and UN agencies. His work epitomises an approach that looks for ways to use his skills as an architect to bolster or augment already existing structures, rather than starting ab initio. It is a way of working with the given, making small changes, giving time and giving agency to those involved rather than leading the process from the outside. (source:

These are principles that inform much of AirSpace's ethos and inspired the idea for the open curatorial call for the upcoming exhibition Small Change. On November 30th, Nabeel will be coming to AirSpace to speak at The Artist Soup Kitchen : Small Change.

Nabeel talking here about "The Placemaker's Guide to Building Communities"

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Coming Up at AirSpace - Small Change curated by Sevie Tsampalla

This Friday, AirSpace Gallery opens its doors to a new exhibition - Small Change, based on the seminal work of the same name by architect, development practitioner and academic, Nabeel Hamdi.

The basic principle behind Small Change is a simple one - Through a place and people-based approach large-scale change can best be achieved by starting with something small and starting where it counts.

Hamdi identifies a series of Small Change "rules" in his work which characterise the Small Change methodology.

Small Change 
Code of Conduct 

Ignorance is liberating 
Start where you can: never say can’t 
Imagine first: reason later
Be reflective: waste time
Embrace serendipity: get muddled
Play games, serious games
Challenge consensus
Look for multipliers
Work backwards: move forwards
Feel good

Nabeel Hamdi, Small Change  (2004)

The ethics behind Small Change have been inspiring works and approaches at AirSpace for a while now - it was written nearly a decade ago -  and with the city of Stoke-on-Trent at a point of most need in terms of re-development, the time to look again at Hamdi's ideas has never been more pertinent.

So in light of this, it seemed an ideal theme around which to issue the Gallery's first open call for curators. Whilst open calls are relatively common for individual artists, there are very few calls of this sort for the independent curator, and the Gallery was really pleased with the volume and moreover the quality of the responses.

The selected curator is  Sevie Tsampalla, an independent curator, originating from Kos but now resident in Manchester. Sevie has a clear interest in art in the public realm, collaborative processes and site-responsive projects which fit right in to the subject are of the book, and this exhibition provides Sevie with a chance to further a rapidly growing curatorial CV.

Before the exhibiton opens, Sevie was interviewed by gallery associate Zo Maltby Baker 

Q & A with Sevie Tsampalla, to introduce the curator of the new exhibition ‘Small Change’
ZLMB: First off I wanted to ask what it was that attracted you to AirSpace and Stoke for this exhibition. Well, it was the call that attracted my attention. I read about it online and I found it very interesting to work around the ideas that the book is about: how you can actually achieve something bigger by beginning small and make a positive contribution to the community you are part of.   The book goes beyond a conventional idea of urban planning, one that starts with improvisation - or even ignorance, instead of big schemes, involving people and using the existing resources of a place in the process of planning.  I believe in the power of the arts or grassroots groups have to influence their environment....It is another way of bottom-up building cities, but at the same as a different way of governance and coming together in the public realm. When I started looking closer at what AirSpace gallery  does in Stoke, I was very glad to see that they are very active themselves in the city,  with initiatives that reveal the capacity of the people and the place, like the bird yarden project for example. There are many artist led spaces, but I have the impression that AirSpace gallery are one of the few that are so actively engaged with their city and do so in a collective/collaborative way. I am based in the UK since January, so that's just a few months... so I wasn't that familiar with Stoke. When I started reading more about it, I was intrigued by its past as a former pottery industry centre and its structure of six cities in one. I m still in the process of getting to know it better and I hope to meet more of its people with the occasion of the exhibition. A personal interest in how economic shifts can provoke radical changes in the identity of a place lies also behind my interest in Stoke. I come from a Greek island, whose economy shifted within a few years from being primarily an agricultural one to that of massive tourism. Having experienced such an abrupt change ultimately as one of urban surroundings, I was intrigued by the case of Stoke-on-Trent. Being a locale, but at the same time, it seems to be what it represents: a city made up of cities, a glorious industrial past and in the process of change at the moment, with all the works in the centre and the mandate for change. As someone who is an outsider, I probably bring with me a significant amount of ignorance; an ignorance which I though hope to translate into something liberating, to echo Hamdi’s code of conduct.  
 ZLMB: what is the idea behind the Small Change exhibition?
 One central idea of the exhibition is that place making is not just about the hard facts, what the numbers tell us about a place, the statistics and the graphs, but also about people, their emotions, fears, illusions of the city. This actually draws more from the book Soft City, by Jonathan Raban. My idea is to bring this element in the exhibition space...  But it's not that there's a confrontation between works and projects that are about the hard city and then other works who embody the idea of the soft city. It is rather so, that these two elements are both present in the works and projects invited.
 The notion of displacement is also quite present. Relating it to what I wrote in your previous question..... it is something traumatic going back to a place and not being able to recognise it because it has undergone such a change. In my view it is some kind of a displacement. Like, you see the street, the new buildings, but somehow there's this mental image of a place that persists, of your experience of it, which is no longer supported by what you see. And in the exhibition, there's works and projects who deal with such issues -physical and mental displacements.  Some elements coming from my personal itinerary are in a way brought into the physical space of the exhibition. it is especially the focus on certain cities-Athens, Brussels-Manchester.So the exhibition proposes a combination that is based upon an individual's experience in this way, while at the same time it is a lot about collective action.   

ZLMB: What are the most challenging aspects of being a curator.
I think that at this point for me is the balancing between the very practical/organisational aspects of the role and allowing enough time to research .... and at the same time being able to communicate, to build up a real relation to the people you are working with -artists, galleries, anyone you come across along the process. Especially when you work as an independent, you need to combine many roles. It is a challenging process, because you are constantly confronted with your own strengths and limitations. If you put this in a different cultural context each time, as it has happened with me with changing cities and countries, it means that you need to be able to adapt to different cultural codes each time. All this ...and probably much more.....:-) make it a challenging process.  In terms of curatorial practice, I think one of the main challenges relates to my intention of working not only with artworks sensu stricto, but with cultural products. To explore, or rather, to challenge the boundaries between art and broader modes of cultural production.  To use an example form the exhibition: a poster appearing in Brussels as part of a workshop involving artists and residents, next to an artwork created by an individual artist...what does this give when juxtaposed to each other?    
ZLMB: What do you think is the key factor of a successful exhibition? I definitely don t think there is a formula there, especially because there are so many different formats of exhibitions and ways of curating....and I guess it is hard to measure 'success' , but I would say that there are certain factors that I consider important. hmmm.., not in a hierarchical order, here's a few providing a good framework, giving space and liberty to the artists to realise this that makes sense for their own practice and not forcing things, when you are commissioning new work.  I like to use this mediating role I have as a curator, to make new connections between people, so an exhibition for me is successful when it involves this aspect too, when it leads to new relations In terms of the exhibition as a medium of communicating something, I'd say again this opening up to broader modes of cultural production and not just artworks. If an exhibition has the possibility to do that, explore the dynamics of such a dialectic, I would consider it successful And thinking of the public, which is probably the hardest to do, I would think of the exhibition as a means of changing the way people previously thought about a exhibition that challenges stereotypes and fixed ideas when talking about what goes on 'behind the scenes',  i'd say taking good care of the logistics, think about risks, make good general a good management of your resources. Especially when , like now with AirSpace, someone trusts you to realise this,  it is a big responsibility and you need to be aware of that .

Sevie is a Castlefield Gallery Associate and her last exhibition, Some Misunderstanding was a Castlefield Gallery Launch Pad exhibition and was also selected through open submission.