The Packington is an extraordinary inner London housing estate twice demolished and rebuilt in less than fifty years. AiR leads a cross generational neighbourhood exchange, Pack *Art, which has so far included a mobile print trailer, a film of residents waving at each other, a sound trolley, a meanwhile gallery in the ex-marketing suite, a cinema for one household at a time in a shipping container, open mic performance nights. ‘I Can Believe in Things Which are True’ by Dmitri Galitzine, a permanent living artwork co-produced with residents, was installed in October 2019. We have continued to make work in the public spaces of the Packington during the global pandemic – on doorsteps and pavements, in playgrounds and parks – alongside each other in ‘close distance’.
Some of our questions during this staying: What is an ‘art that comes to meet us’? Where are the edges of place in an increasingly digital world? What does this particular local reflect about the bigger picture in times of pandemic, austerity and Brexit? What happens when art is asked to be a hook for something else? What can we make together in close proximity as we practice social distance?
Made in public in cooperation and collaboration, these artworks are things to notice and prompts for unexpected conversations – between neighbours, passers-by, strangers. As the Packington finds new feet, there is an accompanying sense of loss for an old place that is literally and emotionally buried beneath the new. The artists’ processes open space for the Packington communities to consider this huge moment of change and find individual and collective visibility as the last of the 791 households unpack.
This Packington staying developed from a commission by Hyde Housing to meet a Section 106 condition with support from Arts Council England. The continuing programme is supported by Hyde, Islington Community Chest, National Lottery Awards for All, our LBI councillors, and Arts Council England Emergency Funding, Just Ask Services, Cleanscapes. Thank you to Pollard Thomas Edwards, Rydon, Islington Council, Tintype Gallery, Cubitt, Richard Cloudesley School, St James Church, ARC Community Centre, Pophams Bakery, Waterside Adventure Playground for their generosity and cooperation. AiR artists at the Packington are Dmitri Galitzine, Claudia Janke, Shepherd Manyika, Ross Belton, Yasmine Yer, Sam Blunden, Finn Thompson, Emily Stapleton Jefferis, Charise Johnson, Suki Chan, Ikra Arshad, Rubie Green, Anna Hart. The White Pube were critics-in residence 2018/19 and visited again in November 2021. The astute Pack*Art Panel, six Packington residents, co-produce the programme with us.