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Liquid Histories in Shanghai

Emmi Hyyppä, MA Fashion Photography
Written by
Published date
24 October 2017

A team from Central Saint Martins, led by Head of College Jeremy Till, has curated the London Pavilion at the Shanghai Urban Space Art Season.

Under the theme of “Connections”, Central Saint Martins has focused on the River Thames as a vessel of stories, both real and imagined. The installation, titled Liquid Histories, reflects on the river as being simultaneously a public space of the imagination, a foundational source for the city and also an untamed natural power. The exhibition is housed in a magnificent 1930s grain silo on the Huangpu river in Shanghai, forging a connection between the two urban centres.

The curatorial team comprises David Chambers, Associate Lecturer on BA Architecture and MA Narrative Environments and Director of Aberrant Architecture, Martyn Ware, Director of Illustrious, founder of the Human League and Heaven 17 and Practitioner in Residence at Central Saint Martins, and Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins.

The installation is designed by Aberrant Architecture, the most significant component being a bench that takes the shape of the River Thames as it crosses and exits east London. A series of brass plaques along its length present the evolution of the riverside landscape, mapping current developmental changes through a series of facts, figures and statistics. An exclusive Thames-inspired soundscape, designed by Ware, and a set of poetic documentary films made by Dominic Green – a recent graduate from Foundation in Art and Design – come together to produce a vivid environment in which visitors experience the many meanings of the river and its dynamic relationship to the city.

Final build support was provided by a team of current MA Narrative Environments students, while students of MA Architecture provided research for the plaques. Through these collaborations, Liquid Histories brings together moving image, object, infographic and sound to create an immersive experience of the stories and sensations of the Thames.

The River Thames is an eternal presence in London’s narrative history; today, it acts as a witness to profound and often brutal change, which continues to transform the city. Liquid Histories showcases the fantastic range of talent at Central Saint Martins; from the incredibly beautiful drone footage taken by budding filmmaker Dominic Green, to the important supporting roles played by MA students from Spatial Practices. In addition, it has been an honour to work with celebrated musician and composer Martyn Ware as CSM Practitioner in Residence. The Shanghai Biennale provides an important platform to bring local stories to an international audience, in order to share lessons and find common ground. We hope that Liquid Histories allows visitors to make connections to their own situations, while experiencing something of London and the River Thames.”
David Chambers

From symbolic and historic significance for the city, to their utility within contemporary forces of marketisation, Liquid Histories reminds visitors that urban rivers have much to disclose in all their mysterious, mundane and mythic guises.

Liquid Histories is on show from 15 October 2017 to 15 January 2018.