LOOK17 Highlights / Special Projects

During the festival a number of smaller projects unfolded which discussed the themes in more detail and which used social media and shared social space as places to consider urbanisation and exchange in relation to photography and its instant dissemination.


About the Size of Dartford

Photographer Virgile Simon Bertrand and Curator Davina Lee collaborated to consider the urban geography of Hong Kong housing. The project took its title from the origins of the public housing estate, Choi Hung built in 1959 to house, according to the British colonial government’s yardstick, a population of 43,720 “about the size of Dartford” in just 11 ultra-high density apartment blocks. The project was released digitally across social media and screens throughout the course of the festival. #RIBANorth


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Institute of Urban Dreaming
Tate Exchange

For one week at the start of the festival, John van Aitken and Jane Brake of the Institute of Urban Dreaming (IOUD) set up a temporary research space at Tate Exchange.

The space enabled visitors to engage and interact, exploring urbanism and exchange through photography, by exploring a collection of photographs, books, articles and videos, about the dispossessions and displacements behind the visual drama of China’s hyper urbanization.




We Chat

Rui Xu and Boris – both students at Liverpool University – were invited to lead on a photography project titled Global Citizens, developed on the festival themes and presented using the digital space of WeChat, the most popular social media platform in China.  WeChat works with a blend of features similar to Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook, and because of it’s natural encouragement to swap experiences visually was an exciting space to work in.

Starting from assisting with Yan Preston’s Now and Before project (which was on show in Liverpool ONE), Global Citizens came from an interest in seeing how people used photography to exchange ideas on the city – be it one they have just arrived in, or their hometown. Boris and Rui encouraged student friends in Liverpool to post their impressions on the city whilst friends from China sent them photos and clips updating them on life at home.

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“Wechat is the most widely-used social software in China (almost indispensable to everyone). Besides, Wechat has powerful instant communication functions that fit the theme “Exchange”. 

Metropolises in China like Shanghai and Beijing in the video are increasingly assimilated to cities including Liverpool (more convenient city life, more diversified ethnic disparity, more international cultural background). Next, in this activity, to my surprise, I found that many friends are willing to participate in this project, many of whom have even no art background (many technical problems may exist in videos taken by them). But that fails to deter their enthusiasm. To some degree, I think in recent years, attention and acceptance of Chinese people to arts, artworks, exhibitions, or relevant things have been greatly improved.  

My favourite part of this project helps foreign audience learn about Chinese people’s daily life and also contributes to closer relationships between domestic friends and me. The original plan of the project is to enable people from different cities to have a video chat and real-time calls.” – Rui



The Grid Project

The Grid Project is a mass participation photography project led by photographer Dave Allen. Already conducted in Birmingham and Manchester and now in Liverpool, Dave draws a grid over the city and highlights intersection points that become locations for a photograph. Participants are then assigned a point on the grid,  and are sent off to photograph that point from any perspective they choose. All images are collated and uploaded to create a photographic map of the city.

All were invited to contribute using smartphones, ipads or cameras. Grid co-ordinates  were handed out to participants in the morning, and images were downloaded  throughout the afternoon and evening. The images were then assembled overnight and the final map (pictured above) was projected on the following afternoon.

Images credits
RIBA and cover, courtesy Virgile Bertrad and Davina Lee
Institute of Urban Dreaming courtesy Jemma Hall
We Chat, screenshots of images by Rui and Boris
The Grid Project courtesy Jemma Hall









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