Will Ashcroft’s and Aisha Bozonga’s Mandala Benches will create hubs for communal activity and reactivate three public spaces in the housing estates which are underused and, as a result, are flagged for redevelopment. Ashcroft — an artist, musician and EC1 resident — and Bozonga — a Goldsmiths Art Therapy Student — have worked with residents to design, build and decorate eye-shaped benches and planters for their local area. Taking reference from mandalas – a spiritual symbol of Hinduism and Buddhism representing the universe – the benches will connect together to create a giant mandala which will form the youth stage of Whitecross Street Party (WXSP). Designed using sacred geometry, the benches and planters will be reconfigured into three formations, semi-permanently installed in the public spaces of neighbouring estates.
Kunstraum‘s Friends & Neighbours is a programme of artist-led workshops for residents of Whitecross Street and the wider EC1 area. Artists Zoe Williams, Lisa Penny, Lindsey Mendick, William Ashcroft & Aisha Bozonga will kick off ‘Friends & Neighbours’ for the Whitecross Street Party 2018 with four major new commissions, which challenge artists to test participatory and socially engaged projects within their broader practice.
Inspired by Kunstraum‘s building’s former function as a community hall, Friends & Neighbours expands beyond the gallery’s walls to test the conditions of accessibility and social potential of contemporary art. The project’s title suggests ‘neighbourliness’ as a model for a non-hierarchical relationship of an art space to its audiences. Standing contrary to stereotypical media depiction of communities who live in social housing, the programme foregrounds residents’ ongoing involvement in cultural life and proposes an alternative to galleries’ role in gentrification and social cleansing.