‘A MODERNITY WHICH FORGETS’
The 75th Gropius Anniversary At Impington Village College celebrates the college building designed by the Bauhaus architect when in England and collaborated with Maxwell Fry, after being invited by Henry Morris. Still relevant today, forward thinking Morris said: […] the school must provide for the feeding and training of the emotions and the senses through the Arts – first by means of a building which is a work of art and gaily decorated, and also through music and drama and the dance. In all countries it is here that the school fails tragically. The result, everywhere, in all communities is wholesale, emotional and bodily malajustment and unhappiness’. He then added: ‘Impington Village College is a Community Centre for the Arts where children can consume and enjoy co-operatively all the art forms which otherwise would be impossible’
Research artist Elena Cologni has been working at the college and researched in the archives for the past year, with what she defines as an ‘artist as interface in society approach’, based on collaboration with students, villagers, theorists and other fellow artists to inform her interest the engagement with place and the process of forming memories (communicative memory). Since October 2015, her dialogic and interdisciplinary approach was discussed with also Anna Santomauro/Vessel (curators, Italy), Julian Klein (Director of the Institute of Artistic Research, Berlin), Tahira Fitzwilliam (Circuit Tate Plus Cambridge), in the BIBAC Conference, 2014, Faculty of Education Cambridge University. Through a Unesco and European funded residency in Sicily Cologni studied the Reciprocal Maieutics Approach developed by Danilo Dolci, which she understood in prelinguistic terms by focusing on visualising the space between people, and places ‘lo scarto’. This became a specific form of engagement, which in Sicily took shape in drawings and wooden sculptures for hands, whereas at the #transacting, a market of values, Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London (2015) involved using clay. In the latter, Lo Scarto (Touch), also tested at Impington, participants connect in pairs through soft clay. This eventually becomes distorted in the process of manipulation, while defining the space between them into unique objects. Such a socially negotiated practice allows embodied memories (Connerton 1989), carried in gestures and habits, to be exchanged as a form of knowledge of one another conveyed through touch.
This form of engagement, of prelinguistic dialogue, is a reciprocal dynamic of question and response. A ‘question’ already implies an openness towards the other’s background and differences (cultural, gender). In particular, in the encounter the question informs the blank space between hands, which has been inhabited. The distance between two people, a materialized topography, a ‘place memory’ (Connerton 2009), acts as point of contact, exchange and separation.
Participants feel and listen in order to respond, a necessary condition for the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (Dolci 1988, Cologni 2016) as a way of sharing one’s own experience to inform the other’s. This is also how “communicative memory works, through the integration of different traditions, an aspect of which will be lost or discarded along the way… ‘lo scarto’, offcut, scrap, residue of culture…” (Cologni 2016). The exchange, happens in the present of the encounter, when embodied memories surface through pulling, pushing, pressing, joining, connecting, adjoining, abuting, tapping, patting, nudging, prodding, poking, feeling, stroking, rubbing, brushing, grazing, fondling, caressing, petting, tickling, fiddling with, fingering, thumbing, handling, affecting, concerning, involving, moving, stirring, arousing, making/leaving an impression on…. Thus the residual space between hands is shaped, through touch, embedding who we are in response to each other.
Most of Cologni’s research for the exhibition focused on the historical moment of the Chivers’ family farm and jam business funding the Gropius’ project by donating the land and paying for part of its design by the Bauhaus Architect, with the condition that the education programme would be open to its workers. In particular by looking for more information about who they might have been, it became apparent how such an important business in the interwar period attracted people from around the region, country as well as overseas. In a journal published by the Chivers’ business a series of anecdots form a picture of a community created around the business, the identity of each person defined by their position within it. The war was also inevitably cause of growth for the local population as evacuees from London and Europe found their home in Impington, some 7000 children were sent to leave London a portion of whom came to find a new home in the coutryside, and study in Impington. But a lot of the information about their identities is missing, from the historical archives, like mnemonic lacunae.
During the Cambridge Festival of Ideas (2015) the program Cologni devised Gropius’ Impington, modernism and power, art and the rural opens up a debate on the importance of the connection between people and places, and the construction of memory, cultural (monuments) and communicative memory (live interaction, Assman). According to Paul Connerton (2009) this connection may be institutionalised, as in the case of the memorial monuments, such as architecture, but it is in often apparently anonymous places, experienced through the individual’s and everyday’s bodily actions that the individual’s memory’s grid is founded. Through the memories that these places evoke the individual can domesticate the surrounding world. However, Modernity has imposed a frantic pace to the transformation of human environments. The result is that memorials and architecture last, but the common, anonymous places that are the individual’s loci of memory (Connerton 2009) are often altered beyond recognition. In particular, with the continuous process of urbanisation of the countryside, an abstract ideal of the rural is often nurtured by our memories of how familiar places used to be.
‘The paradox of a culture which manifests so many symptoms of hypermnesia and which yet at the same time is post-mnemonic is a paradox that is resolvable once we see the causal relationship between these two features. Our world is hypermnesic in many of its cultural manifestations, and post-mnenonic in the structures of the political economy. The cultural symptoms of hypermnesia are caused by a political-economic system which systemically generates a post-mnemonic culture – a Modernity which forgets.’
Cologni’s approach through her art intervention enters the texture of the memory construction process by establishing a dialogue with local residents and students, as well as building on documents of people’s experience and influence of the Gropius’s building in the 30’s and 40’s, when it was surrounded by orchards and the farm of the Chivers’ family. These found information give voice to a fictional character as Cologni’s alter ego: one of the 3000 women once employed here and coming to the Corridor Club at Impington.
With these in mind Cologni’s body of work include these aspects in the exhibition: The archive material presented shows mnemonic lacunae, missing details about the people who came to work, study and live in Impington; A visualisation and materialisation of overlooked spaces for interaction in the Corridor Club revival; The sculptures as architecture off-cuts of unused spaces between the bay windows at the front of the Gropius building, occupying the space of a crouched body, are moved around the site, as from her drawings.
Cologni’s response is symbolically in memory of all people whose nomadic way of living inevitably shows paradoxes like cherishing their memories, while also erasing part of them to make room for new ones in the encounter of a new place.
In response to Cologni’s invitation curator and writer Cristina Bogdan develops an alternative reading of its physical and imaginary space. Using the simple technique of QR codes, she disseminates images throughout the building, which she invites visitors to discover by taking her guided tour. The images thus interfere with the architecture only by the visitors’ choice. Chosen from historical archives, artists’ photography and film, or feature films, these images suggest connections between the typically modernist space of the College and developments in education throughout the 20th Centuty
The interventions are:
From utopia to dystopia, from politics of the body to working notions of the community, from physical space to collective imaginaries, the installation opens up a historical place to contemporary readings (more here)
Elena Cologni’s residency was funded by Grants for the Arts, Arts Counicl England, and produced by ROCKFLUID. This residency and project is being supported by Impington Village College 75th Anniversary, Lo Scarto, Castelvetrano Selinunte Sicily,Italy (Local Authorities, European and Unesco funding), Critical Practice, Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London, The East Anglian Film Archive, Cambridge Central Library Special Collections, Chivers’ and Harleys’ Pensioners Association, Histon and Impington Village Association, CIAN University of Cambridge, Cambridge Festival of Ideas, RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections, Impington Village College Archive, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum archives.
My gratitude for the incredible support goes to: Robert Campbell, the principal of Impington Village Collage who allowed me to work in such an inspiring context, I was first given access to by Amy Wormald; all the community within and outside of the college, including: Susan Conroy, Graham McGregor, Sharon Wildsmith, Alison Elmslie, Emily Peirce, Kathryn Aybak, Beverly Yorke, Judith Brown, Faye Morrisey, Fran Difranco, Barry Norman, Alasdair Perrin, Eleanor Whitehead, and the corridor club 2015 members:
ABLETT Elizabeth ANSELL Owen ARFAN Adam BATES Nia BEASANT Lewis, CLARKE Hayden COOKE Elise EDIGER Luisa ELLERY Sebastian FOREMAN Mia GARNER Kyle GELLER Sofia HAMPTON Bethany HARDING Katie HARVEY Oliver HORROD Rebecca HURLEY Elizabeth LESCOTT Chloe LEVITT Florence MCALEER Katie NEESON Kim NG Jeremy NORMAN Owen PAYNE James PETTITT Molly ROBINSON Harley RUSSELL Olivia SALMON Brendan SAUNDERS Reece TUCKER Ewan WONG Hoi Ting AGUIAR Lorena ARUNAGIRI Lalith BALAAM Ellie BROADWAY Samuel BUTLER Mia CAMBRIDGE Charlie CESARE Chloe CORDNER Oliver CORNWELL Finley COULSON Chloe CZUBAK Martyna DOGUSHEV Mikhail GRANT Leah HILL Shannon JARVIS-SMART Hollie LAWRENCE Lily-Mae MACDONALD Elena MATEUS MARTINS Romina MCCORMICK Leonard MENEZES Bobby MIAH Hanifa MILLIGAN Joseph MINGAY Sonny NICHOLLS Kai PARKINSON Gabriel PETERS Kaylee PRINCE Katherine SCARLETT Leon STACEY Jamie THORBURN Max WIATR Oliwia WILLIAMS Philippa ALDERSON AnnabelARKELL Alexander BEVIS Nina BULLEN Joshua BURTON Samuel CHAFFE-BRASHER Alfie ELLIS Josh GRANDE-BUTTIMER Emily Kate GREER Jasmine HARA Ryan IRVINE-LEGGE Adam JACKSON-NEWITT Caitlin JONES Hannah LIPPMAN-ERRASTI Julen MAIR Lewis MCWILLIAMS Beatrice PAPADOKONSTANTAKI Stef PEACHEY Adam PHILLIPS Amy POTTER Emily RICHARDS Hope SCHOLTEN Sophia SCOTTER James SIMPSON Laura STINSON Toby VIGLIOTTI Martha WIDDICOMBE Sam WILCOX Benjamin WRIGHT Lewis YANG Ming
… and growing
A program of events open to the public include two workshops and a day symposium in the Cambridge Festival of Ideas program to discuss with other artists and theorists the link between modernism, power, art, and the rural. This will include contributions from: Rebecca Beinart, Aid&Abet, Ian Hunter, Ian Nisbet, Bram Thomas Arnold, London Fieldwork, Gulsen Bal, Cristina Bogdan, Alana jenelik.
The project. The project was conceived by Elena Cologni and produced by Rockfluid. This is an umbrella project addressing the relation memory and perception with place, outcome of a residency at Faculty of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge. Rockfluid has received two Arts Council England Grant for the Arts (2011-13 and 2014-15) and was included in the Arts Council England Escalator programs: Visual Art at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire and live art at Colchester Arts Centre. It has also received a Unesco/European IArt Residency award. A substantial body of work was developed including: Spa(e)cious (Wysing Arts Centre, MK Gallery, Uk, Performace studies international, Stanford USA, Bergamo Scienza ,Italy, 2013, Institute for Artistic Research, Berlin, Germany 2012), L’elastico, Anglia Ruskin (curator Bronac Ferran) ‘Navigation Diagrams’, MK Gallery, ‘Balancing’, Doppelgaenger Gallery, Bari, Italy, Athens Biennale (2013-14) Curators Vessel. Overall Rockfluid is a project for artistic research in dialogue with other disciplines, involving general public, other artists and academics. This has residency allowed Cologni to frame her work within the dialogic approach, and underline the crucial role of art in society.
 Henry Morris, part of a radio programme broadcast on the North American Service titled “British Education Look Ahead – The New Senior School in Britain” September 1942
 discussed in the book chapter Cologni E. A Dialogic Approach For The Artist As an Interface in an Intercultural Society, (2016) in Burnard, Mackinlay, Powell (Eds). The Routledge International Handbook of Intercultural Arts Research New York, London: Routledge
 Paul Connerton 2009