The Promise of the City
So, yes, this is a work that is still ongoing.
Yet, at its heart, is a work about housing, specifically social housing and how that place which we call home, constructs our social identity - if only in the eyes of others. But it is also will be about the shifting housing policy of the city of Birmingham and the affects which this has and will have on the lives of its citizens; within a work, that starts with a few photographs of a tower block in Aston.
A bitter wind blows in through the vents of the laundry room on the nineteenth floor of Barry Jackson Tower. Youths, who have eased themselves past security, to build and then burn, push past me and disappear down a lift shaft. Leaving behind them the smell of weed that fades in the frigid air of a world best described in the words; cold, dirty and decaying.
Here, empty green washing lines traverse the space like laser lights that guard a precious object in a heist movie. But there's nothing precious here in Barry Jackson Tower; just the multi-coloured clothes pegs hidden in the dirt of the floor and the tenants of thirteen flats waiting to be re-housed in a tower block of one hundred and five other empty flats.
Why do they stay after so many have left? Why do they stay in such a broken world whose grip on the sky will soon be lost?
They stay, of course, simply because this world, this cold, dirty and decaying world is for them home.
Barry Jackson Tower was built by Wimpy in Aston, in 1972 and will be demolished in the early part of 2016. It was erected in an era in Britain when over 50% of the British population lived in social housing; within an era before Thatcher and the rush for home ownership that would stigmatise those left behind.
This work is partly funded by the University of Birmingham, as part of their ongoing AHRC funded work with the recently discovered Janet Mendelsohn archive.