Ben Judd’s Stanley Picker Fellowship project The Origin reflects on Britain’s island status, both literal and metaphorical, and how islands shape the communities that live there. The Stanley Picker Gallery sits on an island in the Hogsmill River and Kingston Upon Thames historically existed as an island surrounded by marshland. The nearby River Thames is home to many islands and also boats – floating communities.
The Origin brings together the communities surrounding the Stanley Picker Gallery – from Kingston University students and academics to local networks, charities and residents – and asks them to imagine a classless, stateless, humane society based on common ownership. A temporary community, an experiment in living, a fictional island group. How would this community interact? What would they move, sound and dress like? How would they communicate with the outside world?
Imagining this temporary community felt particularly poignant in the divisive political landscape that the project was first developed in. However, The Origin took on greater significance in 2020 when most people were thrust into social isolation and interactions migrated online. Hope, love, solidarity, care and support are all values central to this temporary community’s identity – but have also manifested in the community spirit of our own islands over the last year.
Through a series of workshops and conversations, participants have been collaborating with Judd to define different aspects of this imagined, temporary community. A first iteration of the project #TheOriginKingston took place online during the first national lockdown – browse their online dialogue here or search for the hashtag #TheOriginKingston on social media. This collaborative project culminates this summer with an installation at the Gallery, a boat on the River Thames and a series of performances, workshops and events – a rehearsal for an alternative future.
A large free-standing structure in Stanley Picker Gallery, built by 121 Collective and Architecture at Kingston School of Art (KSA), will act as a focal point for the community, both imagined and real. The structure will contain objects and images related to the project that are used to substantiate the community’s existence and sketch out its history and aspirations.
A boat will travel along the River Thames in Kingston facilitating meetings, workshops and performances during summer 2021 (dates tbc). Informed by discussions with Canbury and Riverside Association, an architectural intervention designed by Interior Design (KSA) and will be fixed to the boat adapting to the needs and aspirations of local people.
Further collaborations include: new instrumental and choral music produced by Refugee Action Kingston and Music (KSA); a choreographic sequence developed by The Grange and Dance (KSA), incorporating elements of the sign language known as Makaton; texts and poetic responses by The Bradbury and Writers’ Centre Kingston that consider the elemental force, locality, and history of the Thames; and adaptable, transformable clothing designed by The Gate and KSA Fashion as costumes for the inhabitants of the boat.
Local students, residents and groups are invited to contribute to The Origin this summer. Check back to this page regularly for updates on the community’s development and opportunities to be involved, or follow @theoriginkingston on social media.
This project is managed with the support of students from Project Management for Creative Industries (KSA) with graphic design by Louis Polin and Jasmine Kelly.
The boat is supported with Art Fund’s Small Project Grants and Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants.
Ben Judd is an artist based in London appointed Stanley Picker Fellow in Art & Design in 2019. His work examines collectivity and participation through performance, moving image and installation, enabling different forms of communities to be explored in relation to site and context. He often works with collaborators as a method to develop self-reflexive folk histories and construct temporary communities. Judd has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, recently including ICA, Art Night London, Whitstable Biennale and Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool.