Northbank Intervention: Homage: May 09

Image city forms

Northbank: Beatrice Jarvis

Northbank: site
A choreographic visual installation by Beatrice Jarvis
Under Black Friars Bridge
9 Hour Intervention May 09

The shell

Interventions in the city
Pre-opening interventions series at site: Northbank

We have to make things visible which cannot be seen.’ Stanley Kubrick.

Introduction and rationale.

Site: Northbank, an empty shell awaiting regeneration, renewal and creative impulse. In the interim period I proposed a series of interventions in collaboration with site which can be documented for a small publication which will serve to inspire new reactions to the current landscape and inspire new reactions and perceptions towards the space.
As it exists St Paul’s walk is an area of ambiguous interaction, serving dark haunt of the city where citizens hurry past in a rush to arrive to the next beautiful place, my intention is to use choreography and visual installation as a means of highlighting such urban fallow and generate excitement as to the potentail of over looked urban space.

I made a choreographic installation which was deigned to pay homage to the space and highlight the space to passers by. existing perceptions towards the space.

re make to re build?

My interventions are developed with the concept of utilising the city as resource and studio, my work does not rely on a traditional gallery setting to exist. This project also serves as practical performance based research as to the future of a gallery, and forms an enquiry as to the potential for art to exist out of a white cube context in spaces in desperate need of regeneration. With the creation of a temporary creative hub, I aim to inspire more creative use of derelict and decaying sites in the city. The performances and installations I instigate serve more a documentation and research based experiment lab, rather than a formally marketed series of events. This is with the intention to develop a further series of projects which utilise the city as gallery.

All my events and process are documented and relayed by internet and a small publication due to be published in 2012 with the aim is to utilise a creatively dormant space as a platform and new forum for emergent artists to develop new site specific works and to create a new temporary centre for urban research in relation to the potential of the arts to stimulate creative regeneration.

‘The city is a stage, a theatre stage even, on watching an uninterrupted succession and ever changing forms, characters appear and disappear, events develop and come to pass, which taken together form something like an orrery for the social world.’

The key questions which I wish to investigate through this project are: How do artists function, flourish and create in the city? How does the city inspire a creative response? How does the everyday life of the city become an inspiration? Does the nature of this inspiration change as cities expand, develop and transform?

The city street offers a myriad of inspiration. The street provides an essential communication network for all city dwellers, a place of activity or calm, a place where we are free to wander, to rush, to sit, to use and to create.

Through this particular interventions I wished to develop the idea that; ‘Streets are the dwelling place of the collective. The collective is an eternal unquiet, eternally agitated being that, in the space between building fronts, experiences, learns, understands and invents as individuals do within the privacy of their own four wall.’

This project is designed to allow both the artist and the passerby focus and reflect for fleeting intervals which I hope will prove to have longevity over reflection as to the interaction of the body and the urban landscape; ‘Intoxication comes over a man who walks long and aimlessly through the streets. with each step the walk takes on greater momentum, even weaker grow the temptations of bistros, of smiling women, even more irresistible the magnetism of the next street corner, a distant mass of foliage, of a street name.. The myriad of possibilities offered to satisfy his appetite’

I wish to generate a sense of excitement and inspiration for decaying urban contexts, expanding creative possibilities for the individual in the city, developing the attitude; ‘To walk out your front door as if you’ve just arrived in a foreign country and discover the world in which you already live.’ This concept has the aim to raise a higher level interaction with the environment through active engagement and the power of perception.

Cities are always in architectural flux to accommodate for the social flux and growing and changing populations. Development projects in the city have to take in account the user as the primary stimulus for plans if they are to be successful socially. The need for observation of current space use is essential for understanding location and will aid development of its future. The importance of creating creative spaces for urban dweller is becoming more fashionable and in demand.

As urban populations increase there is becoming a necessity in development to utilise spaces that previously would have been cast aside as wastelands, such spaces are becoming prominent communal spaces in the city, often temporary spaces with functioning arts projects for sometimes often a few months, but such projects in temporary spaces encourage creative use of the city and encourage the scope for creative intervention.

Creativity in urban design and regeneration, collaboration between artist, observer, inhabitant and planner is essential if the space that is being created is to fulfil its creative social role, there has to be an; ‘avoidance of mass development and erection of generic and chain outlets, which do not encourage individuals to have a particularly enlightened existence. The development of ‘new areas’ in cities has to be extremely well considered of the desire is to increase creative activity and heighten the social interaction network of the area through space design, which in reality dictates the choreography of everyday life. There must be weight on the importance of developing a creative infrastructure into which urban dwellers can decide to place themselves in, giving them the opportunity to partake in artistic, intellectual and emerging activities with a social frame work, thus enabling the birth of a ‘creative city’

the city as studio

the city as studio

The emphasis in successful creative modern Urban Planning must centre on the activity of the primary user,‘ how people experience and feel the city emotionally and psychologically takes centre stage in planning’ arcing back to the significance for the practical applications of observational practices as a resource for planning theory. There must be a; ‘focus on the physical infrastructure’ which can; ‘tend to see the city as a complicated machine with component parts that need adjusting, aligning an oiling.’ Such parts of the city need to be directly correlation, relating the primary user to the space in such a way that a creative outcome is a natural progression; ‘the built environment is essential for establishing a milieu. It provides a physical platform upon which the city’s creative activity base or atmosphere develops

Creative Space can be constructed in any pocket of the city where there is the resource physically and creatively to maintain it. This does not have to be defined to specific architectural projects or even temporary space projects, it can simply be a small intervention within existing space that encourages thought and causes space users to review their surrounding habitat more closely due to added external stimuli ‘at all levels of society people use urban space creatively and often such creativity is bought about through adversity or diversity.’

‘ Creativity in design of urban space is not confined to forms of large squares and boulevards, up market residential developments or shopping malls and office parks, but can occur in poor areas of the city and often in small spaces.’
Public spaces have to fit the demand of a charged creative society; high rise blocks with a desolate play area do not call for dynamic activity and interaction of inhabitants. As Landry highlights the; ‘creative city identifies, nurtures, attracts and sustains its talents, it mobilises talent’

Creative public space comes with risk. In the theory if creating creative space, the risk factor of the public’s relation to this space cannot be over looked. There is a need for clarity in within the designated use of creative space in cities. Do space users fully appreciate the risks to their personal space? The paradox of risk and creativity in public space has undoubted effects on the creativity possible in urban planning as the; ‘opportunity side of risk taking culture begins to disappear.’ leaving often dry shells of projects, over burdened with safety legislation, so the pedestrian is a walking safety hazard in themselves, as; ‘consciousness of risk comes in myriad forms’

‘The simultaneous rise of the risk and creativity agendas is one of the greatest paradoxes today, given that risk avoidance strategies often cancel out inventiveness’

In the creation of the creative city, I conclude that there needs to be in-depth and lengthy observation of the particular space and space users, creating a channel of consistent dialogue which creates openness between planner and user, artist and watcher. This project can serve as a pilot to this idea, enabling the current position of site: Northbank to become an emblem as to the creative capacity of design. Such dialogue has positive impact as to the social and creative impact of the space. There is a growing need in modern development to remember, to celebrate, to observe and to consult, the individual within mass development projects, as this helps to create an enriched relationship between dweller and the city, encouraging more creative activity and less hostile environments due to increased sense of personal relationship with space. Observation of behaviour in public spaces, with detailed studies of users remains an essential ingredient to successful regeneration, the intricate movements of the masses naturally form the paths that need to be made, and just simply watching rush hour can solve its problems.

‘The creative city cannot be founded like a cathedral in a dessert, it needs to be linked to and part of an existing cultural environment, we need to appreciate the complex interdependencies and not simply use one to exploit the other if we want a real creative city’


I am currently developing a series of intervention works which allow a synergy between landscape, environment, body, space users and passers by. Such dialogue can be equated to a personal development of key concepts of labanotation into a language form which can be utilize to understand, analyze and reflect upon the dynamics of urban space.

Each intervention as a separate entity forms only a minor piece of the larger study I am in the midst of, i am keen not to develop performances by research studies with a performative outcome. This use of syntax is very important to my practice as it allows my work to be more heavily integrated with concepts of sociology rather than a classical normative performance response.


I am developing an urban intervention tool kit, a collection of ideas, objects, movements and memories that travel with me to the different paths I explore, such a tool kit is a highlighter for the beauty of the underside of the gritty metropolis.

Desk space

Desk space

All images and text copyright to Beatrice Jarvis.

2 Responses to “Northbank Intervention: Homage: May 09”

  1. […] personal example of the use of this devising method can be seen in this project example: to generate […]

  2. Beatrice your work is inspiring. I’m also very much interested in the topics you are tackling. My context is developing Mexican cities. I wish I could somehow attend your workshops. Are any of your workshop materials available online?

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