Auto Portrait : A postcard of Nasa/ Auto Portrait : Listening Exercise/ Discussion: The meaning of the word Community

A Series of Micro Interventions For NASA.

Commissioned ARC Centre for Architecture - Hull




The brief for this commission was to explore NASA (The Newington and St Andrews area of Hull) and make a site specific piece of work in response to the area.

During my time in Hull I spoke to about 50 people living in NASA and discovered that the situation was both complex and multi faceted and yet presented a picture typical to many areas being’ transformed' by a regeneration process. The situation was by no means clear cut and, in fact, the more I people I spoke to the clearer the complexity became.

The piece that evolved out of these dialogues sought to in some way indicate the complexity by giving voice to the many views I was presented with but, at the same time, to mirror situation which many people found themselves in. The project therefore resulted in 3 micro interventions to be experienced in and around the Nasa area.

Auto Portrait : Listening Exercise, a series of audio interventions for the Nasa Area. This sequence re- inscribes the audio I recorded in Hull back onto the streets and articulates the multiple attitudes and intricacies associated with the place. The pride people feel at coming from Hessel Road “they’re good people ‘round here, Hessle Rowders… won’t find owt lik’um in the world, tough mind, but fair”, Glentons Fish Shop, through to the powerlessness that people started to feel as the area changed, crime increased and people became prisoners in their own homes, “It was like Beirut round here… the police turned a deaf ear” Edinburgh street community Centre, Tea Dancers.

Auto portrait : A postcard of Nasa, available in 6 location across the area. A psychogeography of the area presented on a postcard depicting an image of the sea which shows the seascape through the lens of the Northern Romantic Tradition, however every single person I spoke to about the sea saw it as a place of industry, of death, accident and work. Not one person mentioned the 'beauty' of the Humber. I became interested in exploring the gentrification of the gaze.

Each person I spoke to expressed very different thoughts, ideas, memories and concerns about the past, present and future of the area. In many instances people speak about their frustrations about the area, the way things have been ‘done to them’, the kind of disempowerment one feels when subject to political and economic whims. Others were much more positive and said that the area was on the up, that things were improving and that their prospects are getting better. They felt that the regeneration was, in the long term, going to be a good thing.

I suppose the idea of a listening exercise is to not only listen but also to hear what is said and try to understand the meaning of the words, to try and hear what people are really saying. In so many situations listening is done through the filter of what has already been decided. It seems to me that in order to effect real positive change one needs to listen with the filters off and be 100% committed to effect change in response to what is said.


Discussion/ "The Meaning of the word Community", Lots of people spoke about ‘community’, saying, ’there is no sense of community’, ‘we want the community back’,  ‘we need to rebuild the community’ or ‘we are gradually putting the community back together’, however listening back to my recordings I realised that although everybody wanted to be part of a community there seemed to be no fixed consensus as to what that word means. For some there was a yearning to return to the old days when there was a fishing industry in the area, to others it was something they were excluded from, to others it is something that “we are getting back, rebuilding”. The word itself is used so widely and yet its meaning is illusive,  what we mean by the word seems to change its shape depending on who uses it… i.e.  a community worker “the community thinks….” A person living in the area “there is no community round here”

However everybody thought community was a good thing.

So the final part of the project was a workshop with tea and cake designed to create some kind of agreement on a meaning of the word community in the 21c.

I suppose the common thread between all of these small interventions across the area is the re-inscription of peoples’ words onto their place. A kind of reclaiming of the area by the many people and voices I encountered during my explorations.


Project © Jennie Savage 2008