I am an artist currently based at the Bartlett School of Architecture as AHRC Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts. My work here builds on long-term practical and theoretical engagement with the changing fringes of the London Olympic Park with projects from film (The Games) through food and fiction (Pudding Mill River) to debate (Salon De Refuse Olympique). My ongoing impetus to gather, value and disseminate practices of artistic resistance, radical poetics and intervention has led to the book co-edited with Dr Isaac Marrero entitled ‘The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State’ (Marshgate Press, June 2012). www.theartofdissent.net
Throughout the last decade developing an imaginative, interdisciplinary and multi-media practice my preoccupation, site and resource has been those spaces in the city on the brink of transformation. As my home ground, the London 2012 Olympic Park is a massive example of such a condition and my current work sets out to examine and intervene in both the hidden histories, regeneration myths of progress and Olympian ideals inherent in this grand project. Inspired by artist Robert Smithson’s concept of ‘Ruins-in Reverse’, the aesthetic, materials and methodologies of both the archaeological archive and demolition site, I am reinvigorating the traditions of both pop-up book production and etching combining these with installation and film to create ‘Structures of Enchantment’ that critique and undermine the enchantment the Olympics has cast over the city.
My MA Scenography (Central St Martins) based in theatre academies in Prague and Utrecht encouraged an itinerant, site-responsive practice from installation projects in Berlin factories and derelict London Lidos to roller-skating animations under Brutalist Towers (Archway, London). The notion of a total scenography in which space is not a backdrop to events but integral to action informed the development of a theory of event art within my PhD in Cultural Studies (Goldsmith’s College). This, alongside an interdisciplinary imagination and a fluidity of media instilled during my BfA Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University remains at the core of my consistent and independent work in/around contested and transforming urban sites.
I am committed to the sharing of research and work with diverse audiences. I am on the steering committee of UCL Urban Laboratory and present work at a range of UK and international institutions. Examples include seminars at QMUL, Royal Holloway and UAL, walking tours with the Building Exploratory’s Senior explorers, running an ‘Olympic City’ course at Birkbeck and my former position as Honorary Research Fellow with the London Consortium (Tate, ICA ,Birkbeck, Science Museum and AA).
This commitment to public output is amplified by my overlapping work in film/TV working with Dan Edelstyn and Optimistic Productions on a number of broadcast films – from a series of C4 Three Minute Wonders entitled ‘Subverting the City’ to producer/production designer on our recent documentary feature ‘How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire’ which premiered at the 2011 BFI London Film Festival and screens on Film 4 in November 2012.
For Edelstyn and Powell optimism, it seems, is not just a name, but an activity. In troubled times optimism is a vital resource. It is less a description of an emotion, and more an energy – a dynamic and a creative one at that – that expresses a commitment to a set of social principles.
Sukhdev Sandhu, www.telgraph.co.uk April 28th, 2009