In February 2017 I proposed a research trip to a cluster of projects and event in Germany and the Netherlands which are situated across a variety of my artistic interests and resonate with several of the projects I am currently working on, or contributing to, in my home city of Liverpool.

Many of the projects I wanted to visit are harnessing artistic practice and socialising their potential in specific communities greatly effected by changes in trade, environment and demographics. It felt important to gain as much on the ground understanding of such projects as the context and often the physical space, (a building, a location etc) are crucial to their genesis.

I believe that international collaboration and networks are crucial in the field of community art practice in which I am passionate about working. In the present moment, of the UKs impending Brexit, it feels that not only are those future opportunities slipping away from young artists, but that a critical dialogue across countries and peoples is imperative as an antidote to the polarising and isolationist politics of the dominant discourse. It feels like an important moment to strengthen ties between hopeful and transgressive creative projects across Europe.

Focusing my attention on just two neighbouring countries traversable by train allowed me to hone my enquiry onto the specifics and interact as much as possible with the country in which these projects are situated, as well as considering more environmental approaches to international art tourism.

My project visits took place over two trips in May and July/ August of 2017. I am going to retrospectively write about them in, focusing each blog post on what are for me the three main thematic areas.


In recent years in have drawn great inspiration from the work of artists such as Jeanne Van Heswick and Britt Jurgensen, while engaging with projects they have been instrumental in such as 2up2down/ Homebaked in Liverpool. I wanted to take the opportunity of this travel bursary to visit some other long term projects that also explore creative and participatory urban renewal, but manifest differently in response to the specifics of their location and social context.

I spent several days at Parkwerk, a project ongoing since 2014 in the small former coal mining town of Loberg, where a group of local residents and stakeholders explore ways to rebuild a mutuality between the site of the mine and the town. They have been working with architecture, urban design, art and social enterprise to repurpose the large water tower, surrounding mine buildings and a new parkland.


While I was there, German Artist Jula Osten had been invited in to work with the Parkwerk team to stage a curated Flea Market which involves engaging the skills and interests of the broader community. It was great to be there during this intensive working week, engaging with the how the collaborative process is taking place, integrating new artistic approaches and ideas into their ongoing work.

When in Berlin I visited the experimental and community lead development projects of ExRotaprint in the Wedding district and Holtzmarket a central location on the banks of the river spree. The latter bringing together some of the questions explore at the Access Points symposium detailed in my second blog post, of citizens having access to water and shorelines, as well as looking at innovative, wholistic and longterm solutions to community ownership.

When I was in Hamburg I also visited Gängeviertela cluster of 12 historic buildings in central Hamburg which a wide group of artists, social and political activists have been working to save from decay and demolition. Importantly they want to create a centrally located area with the aim to promote arts and culture, securing them for the future, independently from political change. Ultimately, they want to create an open, self-administered Gängeviertel and are shaping a bespoke organisation structure of coopertives, associations and working groups to manage individual and corresponding components.

I also travelled to Rotterdam to visit the Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative and meet with artist Annet Van Otterloo who showed us around the area and gave us a overview of the long standing and complex neighbourhood project. project that is based on cultural production as means for economical growth.

The project is based on inclusive urban development through community participation and self-organisation and on co-operative cultural production as a means for economic and social growth. My interest in creative projects that have sustainable, not fully grant dependant and divergent income. I recognise that such projects can be challenging and complex to manage, however I draw great strength from seeing these numerous collective and collaborative projects operating on large scales.

I had also hoped to visit the Leezals community library, however it was closed during the period i was in town. I met up with Welsh Artist Honey Jones-Hughes, who is studying a Masters at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, and had a walking tour of the city while discussing future project collaborations.

I have gained new knowledge of ways of working and achieve more confidence in my contributions to projects in Liverpool through engaging with a supportive network of artists working towards similar goals. I feel empowered and inspired by the creative work of others and aspects of this visit will unquestionable feed into the main project which I am currently working on in Liverpool.  For the last two years, as part of a group of artists, I have been working to establish a community launderette which also functions an arts and social space. We have secured some initial funding to get the project off the ground, have  done a lot of work to develop the skills and capacity of the team, and develop a financial model and strategy in advance of opening to the public. Follow the next part of our journey as Kitty’s Launderette. 


While in Germany I thought I would take the chance to visit Documenta14 in Kassel, and Munster Sculpture Project, on the rare occasion that they are both occurring in the same year. Having never been to either of these before it was an opportunity to further engage with the structure and implementation of these large art events which feature prominently on the global artistic circuit, and continue to develop my critical perspective on structures for the production and display of contemporary practice.

In 2015 I wrote a review of the Venice Biennial, Strangled Speech: Colonial Modernity at the Venice Biennale, which addressed the limitations and contradictions of such events. (Shortlisted and published for the International Award for Art Criticism, September 2015)

To some extent i had higher hopes for Documenta given its relative position as one of the more socially and politically embedded events of this kind, As well as this editions curatorial approach to have the program taking place also in Athens to potentially offer a critical counterpoint. As Helena Smith writes 

“As the meeting point of the economic and migrant crises that have consumed Europe. Athens offered “fertile land” to explore the global complexities of possession and dispossession, displacement and debt.”

I can’t personally pass much judgement on the effectiveness or value of this part relocation from Kassel as I was unable to travel to Athens, However I have read with great interest the various arguments and counter-arguments about its monetary benefit to the city or spotlight on contemporary art in Athens. As well as its neo-colonial approach to using the city, and inaccessiblity for many Greek artists and local audiences.

“There’s anger because they haven’t taken circumstance into account,” says Nadja Argyropoulou, a curator in Athens. “Their theory is beautiful, radical and timely, but they didn’t mingle or take the leap into the everyday or address the reality here. Circumstance is what humbles theory and makes art as important as real life.”

My experience in Kassel over a few days was of a number of individual artworks and practices themselves being engaging and a welcome new exposure for me, However the format of these events often feels so stifling to the transformative potential of any individual art work.

I managed to meet up with Artist friends from Canada and the UK, who were working on an experimental education event, Under the Mango Tree, which I was consequently able to attend. As I didn’t go to university but have been persuing my own education in alternative/ autonomous settings, this subject matter is always very interesting to me. There were some engaging and informative contributions from the likes of Sofia Olascoaga ( Centro intercultural de documentation, Mexico) and Oscar Andrade Castro ( The Open City of Amereida, Chile) and some nice touches with the organising of the events components in an experimental format.  However, as I may have predicted within the context of Documenta it felt like a closed discourse. One has to hope, if there is really a belief in the transformative and emancipatory potentials discussed, that these ideas get taken elsewhere and put to work by those in attendance.


Sculpture Project Munster, was for me, markable different in its accessibility and interrelation with the city at large. It’s reoccurrence every 10 years, possibly saves it from the overload of biennials, triennials, quadrennials, and quinquennials.

I rented a bike and enjoyed as much of the public sculpture works within a days cycling around and felt like I saw quite a lot to not only get an impression of this years commissions but get glimpses into how it’s developed and layer the city over the decades through the sculptures that have been selected to remain. I particularly enjoyed engaging with the accumulation of works over the last half a century spread around the large Munster Aasee lake. As well as the archeological approaches to spaces of the city such as Pierre Huyghe’s use of a former ice rink and Mika Rottenberg’s use of a closed-down shop that used to sell Asian products, as a ready-made installation set-up to explore “the seduction, magic, and desperation of our hyper-capitalistic, globally connected reality”.


That evening in Munster I was hosted by one of the local project spaces who were contributing to the SPM program with Freihaus. A connection emerged between the architecture team delivering Freihaus, and mutual friends, members of Assemble who have been working on the Granby Workshop here in Liverpool in approach to projects. Thus continued a long night drinking beer and discussing approaches to art practice, German politics and large scale exhibition events in the project spaces courtyard garden.


My desire to go to Hamburg was sparked initially through my interest in the performance collective Geheimagentur (Secret Agents) in particular their recent work PORTS.

This summer they were staging this performance event for a second time as well as hosting Rights to the Sea /Access Points, a two day symposium and week of workshops with many invited participants. The events were hosted aboard the MS Stubnitz, a former GDR fishing vessel, moored in the new Hafencity area of Hamburg.

There research lead approach is shaped by Geheimagenturs critical knowledge of their city, its historic role as Europes main port over many centuries, and how this links it to an international conversation around the movement of goods and people. I wrote in detail about the performance and symposium in a Letter from Hamburgarticle for Art Monthly magazine( AM409:September2017) as there was so much resonance and connection to broader themes.

I am motivated to produce writing from these experiences as a way of deepening my understanding of art practice and ideas brought out by visiting a new place, as much as from a desire to share this experience and give exposure to artists who’s practice I great admire.

The whole culmination of events was deeply engaging and I was introduced to some fantastic theorists  such as Keller Easterling and Historian Marcus Redecker, as well as meeting people from social and artistic projects on water elsewhere, like the resistance to the cruse ship industry in Venice and collectively owned and built raft projects from Berlin, Anarche.



There was a agreement to try to establish a network to continue the conversation, and build international collaboration for those who felt great affinity with the ideas and practices. More can be found out about the beginning of this on the Hydrarchy International blog.

As these event were part of the Theater de Welt festival, I was also able to see some other works such as Five short Blasts by Australian artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, which consisted of early morning tours on the Elbe river with accompanying audio art work. This allowed me another way in to engaging with the water that surrounds the city, this time through the lens of newcomers to the city.



Artistically this was one of the most engaging parts of the trip for me and some of the theory and ways of working which I was introduced to here are opening up many avenues for my continued research and project development.