- (c) Mathias Boudry
Vooruit supports projects by young artists for whom the city is a workplace and through whom concepts such as social participation, urbanity, public space and activism are explored during long-term city-residencies.
One of them is multidisciplinary artist Elly Van Eeghem (°1983). In her work she demonstrates correlations between neighborhoods in her hometown of Ghent and neighborhoods in other Western cities. Which physical and social transformations have taken place? How are we imagining the future of those cities?
Elly is currently working on the Ghent neighborhood of Malem. In June we saw her presentation, 'Siedlung', about a neighborhood in Berlin-Neukölln, which, just like the social housing project Malem, was designed as a garden district “for the common man”.
Many inhabitants from Malem came to take a look and left their contact information. Elly has since been able to conduct a few captivating discussions with them and will continue to do so in the following weeks.
HOW DOES ELLY WORK?
"I talk to residents and former residents, preferably from a variety of backgrounds. I also look for people, such as urban planners, employees of social housing projects or private real estate developers, who deal with Malem and its surroundings professionally. I am conducting these conversations for myself first and foremost, because I want to get to know the Malem neighborhood better and because I want to develop a project there that is relevant to the neighborhood."
"The empty school building in which I performed 'Siedlung' has recently been purchased by the City of Ghent. Starting September 2017 it will start welcoming children again. This makes the residents happy. The uncertain future of the deconsecrated church next door is the subject of many a conversation in Malem. A former leader of the 'Bende van Malem' (the Malem gang), now a tough sixty year old with tattoos on his arms, says: 'I was born and raised here and I was hoping this would also be the place they would carry me out of."
"I don’t use the testimonies I collect literally in my projects but they are a valuable source of information because the stories residents tell me are stories that cannot be found in history books or archives."
"A question I often ask residents is: imagine the year is 2052. This neighborhood will then be 100 years old. What do you see when you look outside? Most people answer that Malem will remain a social housing district. At the most, they imagine some deterioration that will need to be tackled through a second round of renovations. No one replies that the houses in Malem could have been sold by then. But isn’t that a real possibility?"
"What if ... is a fun stepping stone to define future scenarios for the neighborhood. What if this neighborhood, called the “Malem island” because it is located between two arms of the river Leie, would flood? The objective is not to be pessimistic or to feed nostalgia, but to show that there are always different possibilities."
"I don’t know yet where this residency will take me. I like to take my time to get to know a neighborhood well before I define the project I can present there. What is for sure is that I will show something during the (Im)Possible Futures festival by Vooruit & CAMPO in March of 2015."
"From January till June of 2015 my urban residency will gain more visibility as I will transform a former commercial space on Malem’s central square into my studio."
Elly Van Eeghem’s urban residency in Malem is made possible through support by Kunstencentrum Vooruit, KASK School of Arts Gent, Stad Gent and Woningent.