Low Rise

Chan, JJ and Howe, Sarah (2019) Low Rise. Art Licks Magazine, 24, pp. 45-48.


Low Rise is a contribution to the special issue of Art Licks Magazine on 'interdependence' and comes in the form of an annotated and illustrated poem, taking its title from a project of the same name. Low Rise is a project facilitated from a flat shared by the artists JJ Chan and Sarah Howe and located on the top floor of Medina House on the Rye Hill Estate in Peckham, London. Low Rise began as an attempt to engage and create as a collective not only of those who ordinarily consider themselves to be artists but also of administrators, designers, dinner ladies, architects, musicians, magicians, city workers, cleaners, mothers, fathers, children and pets; a collective of all the residents of the 30 flats in Medina House, a 1960's low rise council block in South East London. Through the platform of an annual city-wide arts festival, Art Licks Weekend, Low Rise has brought an audience to life in Medina House. It has developed a collective voice through making that has been active in campaigning for safe cladding, unjust service charges, and poor maintenance. It has brought closer a community of neighbours who in their collectivity can grieve, love, play, and make together. For Art Licks magazine Chan and Howe reflect on Medina’s 2019. The Polaroid photographs depict objects in the artists home that have come from 'the ledge'; a raised and covered concrete surface, about elbow height, and a couple of meters from the bins right next to the front door. It is where residents leave items for others to take: second-hand furniture, clothes, toys, books, vases, works of art and more. These items move around the block, shifting from where they are no longer needed into where they are, through an unspoken neighbours’ arrangement – a show of interdependence. Issue 24 of Art Licks magazine responds to the title of Interdependence. Coinciding with the annual London festival, the Art Licks Weekend (17-20 October 2019), both the festival and magazine explore ideas of artist community, support, reciprocity, and networks. Grassroots projects have often been described as ‘independent’ but this implies being in isolation, outside of the system; and this does not fully reflect how people are now working today. Instead, artist projects and practices positively depend on community and rely on exchange and support from one another. It is about collectivism; trusting one another as forms of production and art-making. The issue asks: what is most important when working together? What is it to care and what investment does that require? What structures need developing for sustainable outcomes?

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