good for bristol

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Really good show on at the Arnolfini until November

"The Promise - A dialogue between the city and its people" will be at the Arnolfini until 9 November 2014. It's a must-see for Bristolians, people interested in how a city is shaped and anyone who loves intricate wooden models of streets.

Start on the top floor in Gallery 5. There's a load of post-it notes stuck to a wall contributed by random passers-by. In amongst the doodles this one caught my eye:

Ok, so it's a snark at our beloved, red-trouser wearing Mayor. But keep your eyes peeled later in the exhibition and you'll see examples - many fortunately unbuilt - of George's malign modernist designs on our city.

Check out Galleries 3 and 4 on the next floor down if you want, there's not much of interest. But you'll definitely want to spend some time in Gallery 2 which has a series of maps of Bristol mashing-up layers of data on historic riots (missing the 1992 Hartcliffe riot for some reason), banks, bomb sites and urban exploring with comments scrawled in marker pen. One map even shows the quarry where I live.

Oh, the one interesting thing in Gallery 3 is this filing cabinet tower block. Most people regard this kind of thing as rubbish but I'm a sucker for it every time.

And the real star of the show is in Gallery 1 on the ground floor. Gaze in awe at the little wooden models of Bristol's streetscape, spot the missing St Mary Redcliffe, ponder how Old Market got all messed up in the 1950s and offer praise to the gods of town planning George Ferguson's terrible modernist design for what's now the Department of Environment building opposite the Central Library didn't get built.

Bristol is a Georgian city. What's with all these crappy modern blocks with metal grating and balconies stuck all over them? Wanna know how to build properly? Take a look at the Swallow Royal Hotel at the bottom of Park Street.

Almost as an afterthought lots of the exhibits have stuff scrawled on them with marker pen or written directly on the walls. I'm not sure what to make of this new development, I think it's a somewhat childish attempt to recuperate the dirty, grimy energy of graffiti. Kinda works though.

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