By: Jade French
Making Cities was all about the way we creatively interact with our streets on a daily basis. Do we walk with our heads down, shoulders hunched? Or should we start opening our eyes to the small individual markings, both man-made and weathered? Not So Popular brought together academic and urban planner Claire Malakia and artist Caroline Derveaux at their night PEAKS, which aims to join academic ideas and art with DJs and drinking.
Claire Malakia gave this week’s talk, on her research process ‘Creative Placemaking’. As a PhD student, Claire explores how this process impacts West African communities in particular – but as an urban explorer, her work takes her around the world. With an eye for detail (and a camera by her side), she captures the marks left behind by people whose tracks she follows in. As Claire notes, “creative placemaking can be entirely different, depending on the intent of the maker. It’s about an individual wanting to claim a space. This act of creating something (anything) connects you to a physical space for a moment – and in that moment that space is yours, it defines you”.
Claire takes groups around London, getting them to open their eyes to the myriad of street markings and graffiti that line the streets:
On these journeys “It’s the constant transformation and curating of communities and public space…” that interests Claire. After moving to London at 19, she began to walk around the city to familiarise herself with it. The city backdrop was a way of her letting go of the personal in public. Since then, she has started projects Its Prsnl and, more recently, began leaving her own messages on the pavement hoping to start a dialogue. “How are you?” she asks, looking for a connection.
Meanwhile, Caroline Derveaux’s work uses geometric, almost architectural patterns, to divulge how she views the world. The pastel colours and innocent mark-making belie a surging inner landscape. Using art as a therapeutic tool – much like Claire uses her city walking – Caroline’s storytelling is extremely precise. Each piece of work is hand-painted to such a detailed degree, they could be mistaken for a digital print. Moving constantly between light and shade, her work is also for the public. Her commissioned work is out in the open, and community friendly.
For both artists, the city and the canvas are interchangeable. Connecting to their environments on a very visceral level, each walk undertaken or each line drawn, connects the person to the place. As Claire put it, “We can create a space for experimentation and play – and within that, there is the opportunity to find a place to belong”.