A curatorial publication and platform developed by MA Culture, Criticism and Curation students, Silence in the streets focuses on British community photography group Camerawork. Here, Greta Voeller shares how researching and reflecting on the past can alter your understanding of the present.
We live in strange times. In only a few months we have experienced an invisible revolt, a drastic change in perspective and habitual living conditions. Everything just stopped. What once happened outside, now takes place indoors. Our walls are deemed protectors instead of dividers and we meet through the distance that unites us. Our streets are empty and still, yet entirely filled by our voices that have been silenced.
The result is an online platform which incorporates two distinguishing aspects, responding to the same preoccupations. The publication covers the archival work we have been privileged to develop, looking at Camerawork’s legacy and focusing on a particular event: the Brick Lane riots documented by Paul Trevor. This historical incident is a case study from which to discuss the collective’s stance and methodology capturing sociocultural turning points. The online component expands into a selection of responses from an array of international contributors, who replied to the prompt "documenting the idea of community during the current Covid-19 isolation". These responses take on different shapes – photographs, writings or drawings – which act as singular diaries narrating a longing for communities we once belonged in and hope to return to.
The name Silence in the Streets serves as a metaphorical reference to how we perceive our surroundings in times of change, but also how silence can be an indicator of a halt during a crisis. We interpret it as a direct link to the way protest has traditionally been tackled, i.e. on the streets, which serves as a metaphor for the place where we come together as communities, where we unite, where we provoke change but also from where we escape.
As we interrogate this present state, we acknowledge the privileged position we occupy as creative practitioners, analysing the currents of our cultural pasts and shaping the rhythms of our probable futures. The contemporary condition is in a state of crisis due to its missed efforts to assert an alternate post-capitalist domain, a novel environmental consciousness, dominant layers of globalism and technology, unresolved uncertainties of exceptional nature. Yet as strange and unsettling as this may seem, it inundates us with opportunities to restructure the paradigms that held us captive. We live in strange times whose strangeness can be shaped into a new norm, an embodied consciousness of communal thinking and surviving. We are together in this, are we not?
There’s a noise that still echoes in the streets; it’s our voices that may seem silent but they’re alive.
Silence In The Streets was curated by Na An, Jamie Johnson, Liza Kupreeva, Sarah Moriarty, Terrence Phearse II, Margherita Salati, Greta Voeller, Chuqi Wang, Clara Jean Wicaksono.