Short Life Housing: POP UP FUCK OFF!

PopupFuckOffNewOperaHero

“Post electro-rock and driving electronica inside the head of a giant baby…” that is ‘New Opera Hero’ confirmed for the delightfully named art show- Pop Up Fuck Off. The show apparently runs for one day only on March 28th, and then, flips off.

A whole load of London based artists brought together by Samuel Brzeski and India Roper-Evans are gathering to end the life of Broadway Studio in style.

Broadway Studios is dying, and in it’s wake will be piles upon piles of luxury flats. We are inviting you to Pop up before we all Fuck off. Art, music and performance throughout the afternoon and evening”

A history of the topography of artistic life in London over the last 500 years reveals a not unexpected dynamic – artists appear as nomads, moving around London districts in search of money, respectability, work or just fresh air. This movement reflects not only historical changes in both the social status of the artist from craftsman to bohemian to media celebrity, and artists’ professional relationships with patrons or dealers at the same time, but also changes in the character of those areas artists choose to settle in. In the 19th century artists could make an area fashionable just by their presence, as in the cases of Chelsea and Hampstead – artistic regeneration is not such a new concept after all.

The more astute property developers have long had an adage: “Follow the art”. It is a truth widely acknowledged that where artists gather, so developers will follow, and the renaissance of certain inner-city neighbourhoods – particularly of SoHo in New York or Hoxton in London – has been pioneered by the artistic avant-garde. Across the country – and especially in superheated London, where stratospheric land values beget accordingly bloated developments – authorities are allowing planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled.

The “invisible painting” called Quantum State by artist Tom Estes for POP UP FUCK OFF! The work suggests a portal like those found in science fiction and fantasy. Portals are often used in science fiction to move protagonists into new territory.  It usually consists of two or more gateways, with an object entering one gateway leaving via the other instantaneously.

In London’s property world the connection with art and artists is part of a process known as “cultural place-making”, engineered by developers over the past decade or so; wooing artistic partners to form more permanent unions, redolent of an earlier era of arts patronage. With last year’s World Cities Culture Report, commissioned by the Mayor of London, identifying culture as the defining essence of a city, it would seem to be in step with contemporary concerns.

However, spaces are becoming ever meaner and more divided, as public assets are relentlessly sold off, entire council estates flattened to make room for silos of luxury safe-deposit boxes in the sky.  Homes and communities are replaced with investment units, to be sold overseas and never inhabited, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our cities are emptied, producing dead swathes of zombie town where the lights might never even be switched on.

The system has spawned a whole industry of S106 avoidance, with consultancies set up specifically to help developers get out of paying for affordable housing at all scales of development. Section 106 Management, set up by solicitor-turned-developer Robin Furby, is one such company that offers a service to small-scale developers, promising “to establish the profitability of your project and thereby reveal unviable Section 106 obligations”. Its website displays a list of case studies proudly showing how much they have helped developers dodge, and boasting of planning permissions achieved “without any contribution towards affordable housing” at all, saving “tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

So what exactly does it mean when a property developer pleads poverty? “If the profit margin for your scheme is pushed to below 17.5% by Section 106 payments, you should talk to us,” says the website. Other consultants promise to safeguard 20% profit margins and upwards, before any Section 106 contributions are even considered. If a scheme is declared “unviable”, it simply means “we’re not getting our 20% profit so why should we bother”.

“Council chief executives will allow schemes to be pumped up as much as they can go before they get political push-back from councillors,” says one planning officer from a London borough that has suffered from a recent a spate of towers. “And the worst schemes happen when there is no political resistance at all.”

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Graffiti artist Sean Worrall tags scrap material found on site.

It is a system that is all too open to political pressure, given that any officer who advises against a new development can be conveniently framed as “anti-growth”, heartlessly preventing a promised tidal wave of new public amenities from flooding into the borough. Based on negotiation and discretion, the result is entirely down to the individual planning officer’s ability to squeeze out as good a deal as they can get, a battle that all too often ends in the developer’s favour.

Bullied and undermined, planning authorities have been left castrated and toothless, stripped of the skills and power they need to regulate, and sapped of the spatial imagination to actually plan places. As one house-builder puts it simply, “The system is ripe for sharp developers to drive a bulldozer right through.” And they will continue to do so with supercharged glee, squeezing the life out of our cities and reaping rewards from the ruins, until there is something in the way to stop them.

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Live Action Painting by a member of the Minesweeper Collective.

However the recent discovery by Inside Housing that most of the 86 apartments in the ludicrously expensive One Hyde Park development have no one living in them – “a dormitory village in a built-up area,” as Stuart from Leyton tweeted – coincides nicely with the publication of a discussion paper from the Smith Institute making the case for a property speculation tax.

The use of ‘short life housing’, though useful in plugging a gap, means that as in previous centuries, artists have to keep on the move. Where Acme and Space sought to work with local government, the other alternative was the formulation of squats. Now outlawed, squats are less secure and stable than the charitable organisation of artist spaces such as Acme or Space. Squats also put artists onto a collision course with local councils who had different priorities for the regeneration or long-term viability of its housing stock. However, regardless of the elimination of squatting as an option, the the main issue persists. This is put into high relief by the success of the marketing of Shoreditch and other neighborhoods that were formerly the haunt of artists in London. While the developers cash in on artists ‘cool’ the benefits for the artists working with developers are as short-lived as the building stock available to them.

 PopupFuckOffPOP UP FUCK OFF! Artists include: Elod Beregszaszi, Richard Leppard, Matthew Rose, India Roper-Evans  Flora Deborah, Sophia Simensky Mita Solanky, Samuel Brzeski, Cecily Bates, Rodrigo Souto Eden Lazaness, Helena Mae Brzeski, Miriam Gould, Mary Jones, Amelia Prett, Thomas Wells, Millie Easton, Tom Estes, Cheryl Simmons, Sarah Peace, Sarah Miah, Be Inma Berrocal, Carmen Viñuela, Ele de Luis, Simone Strifele, Sean Worrall, Kathryn Madge, Soundboxed Collective, Daniel P Cunningham, Jamie Misselbrook, Elaine Johnson, Lauren Cooper, Hayley Don Hill, Xiaoqiao Li, Minami Wrigley, Bob Brown, Luke Sebastian Wilde, Robert Marney Arts, Rob Jones, Phillip Hawkey, Nalini Thapen, Sisters From Another Mister, Milda Lembertaite, Emma Barford, Graham Martin, Andrew Stys, Timothy Holt, Aerial Sparks, Julia Maddison, Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick, Alejandro Tamagno, Sedicente Feccia, Minesweeper Collective, Desdemona Varon, Gzillion Artist, Vanya Balogh, Susana Sanroman, Silvia Cruz Del Alamo, Vanja Karas, Yumi Yoshinaga,  Sinéid Codd, Russell Hill, Caroline Derveaux-Berté

Broadway Studios 28 Tooting High Street, London SW17 ORG

“The exhibition opens at 3pm and will run quite late with musical performances and other art works into the evening“.

Links: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/17/truth-property-developers-builders-exploit-planning-cities

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2013/oct/01/smith-institute-property-speculation-tax-london

http://www.artmonthly.co.uk/magazine/site/article/wanted-studio-space-by-andrew-wilson-may-2001

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About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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