The Gorgies Centre (2002)
81 image 35mm slide projection
7 minutes duration
[the keepers of the archive: Jo and Bridie Jones]
The Gorgies Centre (2002) unites two seemingly unrelated locations and communities and through a sequence of 81 slides, (alternating too, between sequences of colour and images that are B&W), prompts us to question our assumptions about where information might be situated, and who appears to be holding power over the dissemination of that information, and how the desire for ‘independence’ might be supported and maintained.
The piece involves a small gypsy community (Jo and Bridie Jones and their families) in Kent, who, in 2o02, were being hounded off the land they owned by a group of local resident racists (who distributed a letter amongst their village, claiming “…you wouldn’t want the horror that comes with the gypsies…“) and property developers from the nearest town, Fordwich (‘Britain’s Smallest Town’).
Chodzko invited MBLC partners, a major architectural practice in Manchester to create an archive of their housing projects using architectural plans, sketches, photographs and notes. Chodzko then offered this archive to the gypsy community to store in their caravans, making it available to the public to visit and research.
This might seem an absurd and dangerous collaboration – the gypsy’s holding the material of what would appear to be the ‘enemy’ – but this network of people and objects have been structured in such a way to open up an imaginative space for both those involved and those viewing it, raising the question ‘what brings these things together’?
Any potential town planners or architecture students etc wanting to research the history and designs for social housing in Hulme would, ironically, have this information mediated by gypsies, miles away in Kent, the hope being, “that the rejection of conservative assumptions about what constitutes a ‘home’ and the desire for independence by more marginal, nomadic communities might be incorporated into future public strategy.
As with its companion piece cell-a (2002), questions of where we choose to look, where we expect to find information and who we expect to be mediating that information are all raised by The Gorgies Centre. In both an archive is taken away from its context, its designated place and community and is displaced somewhere else. When knowledge (represented by some form of archive) is displaced from its normal source, context and constituency and instead appears to go awry amongst a new community who are unfamiliar with it (and its inevitable ‘rules’ ) there is the expansion of that knowledge into new and unlikely territories, questioning the role, power and privilege of its existing audiences, whilst also catalysing intuitive insights through apparent ‘mistranslations’ of that knowledge. In both works the archive operates as red herring to initiate dialogue between two different communities. Later, Chodzko continued these ideas with works such as The Pickers. (2009).
As with Better Scenery (2000 – ), Ants Choose Position for Sequins – 2 Seconds Interval (2003), White Magic (2005), Pattern for a Procession with Two Masks (2007) Because… (2013) and O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix (2020) etc, The Gorgies Centre operates in the vibrating space between two apparently disconnected sites apparently communicating with each other.
Although functioning partly in a dream space of irrationality and incongruity (partly explored through the alternation between B&W and colour imagery, as though the work is made within a hesitation about its representation) The Gorgies Centre was intended to act (through existence as ‘art work’ and its public exhibition) as legal evidence demonstrating the importance (and rootedness) of the travellers at Fordwich to counter the challenges of the local residents who wanted to remove them. The piece was partly a question of its own capacity to help, or not.
Chodzko has made similar works that are partly based within legal contracts and, or are intended as ‘evidence’ in order to redress an imbalance of power , eg; Settlement (2004), Garden (2007), Corner (2007). A Hostile Environment (2019) is a further interrogation of this using the government’s memory test to establish an alien’s right to exist on British soil.
Excerpt from: Brian Dillon ‘No Right of Light or Air,’ Annual, Kent Institute of Art and Design, pp.19–34:
…A related slide show, The Gorgies Centre (2002) records a similar project, in which the archive of a Manchester architect’s office (at present engaged in remodelling that city’s centre) is handed over to a community of gypsies living near Fordwich, on the outskirts of Canterbury. Fordwich proudly declares itself the most minimal of settlements — ‘Britain’s smallest town’, the satellite of a satellite — yet somehow also imagines itself as a sort of centre. The settlement which Chodzko photographs is supposedly nowhere; and yet, what flickers on the screen here is an image of home, of a tentative community suddenly in possession of the future of a metropolis. It is as if the city’s history has been entrusted not only to the most vulnerable of communities, but precisely also to the past, to a distant province of time. Further, the events which these two works evince (or rather, project into the future) have been framed by a technology — the analogue slide show — which is itself vestigial: the sort of museum-piece one might uncover, years from now, among the detritus of a provincial junk shop at the edge of the world…
Andrew Wilson, excerpt from The Sacred and the Traversal of Social Space in Adam Chodzko Proxigean Tide, May 2008, Tate Publishing:
…A similar interruption to that enacted through Flasher where different codes and conventions are turned-about is carried through in narratives of archival displacement told through two slide-projection works Cell-a 2016 2002, that documents how the archive of the London art gallery Cubitt was given to a group of Kurdish asylum seekers for safe keeping, and The Gorgies Centre 2002, documenting the transfer of the archive of a Manchester architectural practice specialising in social housing to a group of gypsies in Kent who were being forced off their land by local property developers – the gypsies both storing the archive and making it available to researchers. In both works the initial gift of the archive entails a function or activity that would ordinarily seem removed from that expected of the recipients’ cultural marginality within society. It is also a ritual and symbolically laden handing over of a sense of history and identity. The stark conjunction of different social groupings between whom ordinarily no contact would exist serves to underline the basic social need for culture and shelter…
Mark Crinson, ‘Explaining Urbanism to Wild Animals,‘ Mute, Winter/Spring 2005, pp62-66:
“…The Gorgies’ Centre (2002), is in part also a mediation between two places. One of these is a gypsy site in Kent threatened with eviction because of its purchase by property developers. The other is Hulme in Manchester, where what the gypsies call ‘gorgies’, or house dwellers, live. Hulme is notorious for being twice demolished, redesigned and rebuilt since the war. The relocation of Hulme’s residents has parallels with the impending relocation of the gypsies; both are subject to larger imperatives of land-use, planned environments, and the legalities of ownership, tenancy and squatting. Chodzko mines these parallels by arranging to have boxes of official documents relating to one of Hulme’s housing developments distributed to Jo and Bridie Jones, one of the gypsy families whom he had got to know. Chodzko’s ethnography suggests the possibilities of solidarity between two normally distinct groups of people, implying that those who exist on the margins, or who are most subject to planning, are also those who, because of their intimate awareness of shelter, property and security, have the closest relationship with the city.
The work is made up of two sequences of slides shown simultaneously. The slides have been taken as part of a series of meetings, processes and other interactions that led to the creation of the actual Gorgies’ Centre. Yet they avoid merely witnessing those processes and interactions. They juxtapose images and text, foreground their pictorial devices, and refuse to transform static elements into a narrative drive. They mark a distinction between the engagement in a group of actual events that have led to the transferral of an archive into the Jones’s possession, and the way that these can be marked or recorded within the ‘non-site’ of the gallery. The Gorgies’ Centre seeks to displace the official repository of public memory – the archive – so that displacement and transience, as the normally unrecorded aspects of urban policy, are foregrounded. It presents us with a point from outside the dominant culture in which the objects of memory, marked by the archive, can be estranged whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the ‘ideological patronage’ of the invoked other. The work asks how we can come to terms, in a way that cannot be immediately recuperated, with the estranged or marginal circumstances of other people…”
The Gorgies Centre existed initially as a slide projection as part of the exhibition ‘Fabrications’, at Cube Gallery, Manchester (along with Chodzko’s Remixer. It then toured as part of ‘Art For Networks’ at Chapter, Cardiff and The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, and The Turnpike Gallery, Leigh. It was exhibited at the Herbert Read Gallery at Kent Institute of Art and Design as part of a solo show by Adam Chodzko in October/November 2003, the British Art Show at the Baltic, Newcastle, (2006), Tate St Ives as part of Proxigean Tide (2008) and in Design for a Fold at Sidney Cooper Gallery, (2015).