Vessel, 1997 -
A rolling exploration of, and proposal
for, a transformed ex-industrial craft for the use of artist
and community activists on the River Thames.
a possible think-tanker?
A dreamboat for the Millennium - an
agitboat for a democratic and ecological city - a think-tanker
for the future
Today few people would say that the Thames is
at the heart of London life. Despite the achievements of organisations
such as the London Rivers Association and the Thames Festival,
of progress such as the Thames Path, and the opening up of major
public spaces around Tate Modern, the city has largely turned
its back on the river as a living, touchable thing - except,
of course, when there is a profit to be made. Its industrial
and transport role has declined and most of its warehouses converted
into expensive housing - the river banks privatised. Many of
the historic public steps have had gates - albeit unlocked -
placed deterringly at their entrances, ensuring that even fewer
people venture down to the foreshore. The Thames is a water
vista whose past is often erased and whose future beyond the
tourist boat is yet to be imagined.
Vessel is about the possibility
of the Thames to link, as only water can link, Londoners with
their city and beyond, towards other lands - opening up the
space in which the community and its diverse cultures are determined.
Vessel will be a platform for
visions - a moving phenomenon that challenges, alchemically
rather than politically, creating ideas and actions to surprise,
entertain and inspire, open and democratic - a dreamboat for
Vessel may well be many things
- a centre of ecological, artistic and cultural research; a
meeting, exhibiting and performance space; an alternative ferry
service; a demonstration of innovative technologies and plurality
of ownership (many ideas have been put forward). Yet it will
be both real and practical, visionary and fantastical. It will
be a public and dynamic space - a neutral country where everyone
is a citizen. An inspiring celebration and catalyst for social
change - an agitboat for a democratic and ecological city.
Vessel will not only help to
revitalise the Thames as a public space, but also ensure that
the river becomes a place where part of 21st century London
is created - a think-tanker for the future.
Imagine Vessel then, as a Thames
ship reborn, slipping its mooring on the tide - another day's
adventure about to begin. Its cargo, the monumental possibility
of transformation that is inherent in ideas.
PLATFORM launched the idea of Vessel after
nearly 3 months of research and labour : at a meeting in January
1998 thirty eight artists/ecologists/activists/architects/mariners
came together to brainstorm the challenge of Vessel. As one
contributor said "Vessel is
a vision, and this is perhaps its main purpose. A symbol of Real Democracy:
Anarchic, Agitprop, Community, Neutral Ground."
Vessel is an idea waiting to
happen : it will require the vision, skill and commitment of
a range of people, and above all the timing of an appropriate
craft plus an injection of cash. PLATFORM feels no ownership
over this idea , but let us know...
"Vessel is a vision and this is perhaps
its main purpose. A symbol of real democracy, anarchic, agitprop,
community, neutral ground."
"Why is it so potent?"
"This doesn't become a confident answer,
but a dynamic question to the issues relating to the natural
environment. What is art for? Process not product."
Dan Gretton, John Jordan, James Marriott, Emma Sangster - artist, John
Sprange - mariner, Jane Trowell
Thanks to the Ashden Trust for funding the research phrase of this project.