SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

The place for serious discussion, announcements and breaking news about Sydenham

Moderator: frenzarin

tizzyness
Posts: 25
Joined: 19 Jul 2011 10:45
Location: Sydenham

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by tizzyness » 1 Sep 2011 13:50

I'm a big fan of cats. I am not a big fan of this. It's truly dreadful.
Sheer bemusement prevents me from adding anything more constructive :shock:

Tim Lund
Posts: 6687
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Tim Lund » 1 Sep 2011 14:48

As attentive readers of this forum will know, there is a planning application in for this, with an officers' recommendation for approval, which curiously comes up next Thursday, the same time as the next Sydenham Assembly. The report can be viewed here.

Enough time and effort has probably been spent makng the case that this project really is not a great idea. Given the recommendation for approval, it's likely to go ahead as long as the money can be found - but this is by no means certain. The Mosaic committee - whose membership can be found on this document - is still some way short of their funding target, and do not appear to have too much project management expertise. If it does, doubtless we will all come to appreciate it as some kind of joke.

In which vein, the contrast between the "Aahs" and "Ughs" gives me an idea for another way of doing community consultation, which will be quicker and more fun that sitting through extended presentations and listening to tortuous explanations of voting systems. Essentially, the much loved clapometer, but with carefully selected cross sections of the people who live in Sydenham. In other words, not necessarily the Sydenham Assembly, unless it is capable to demonstrating that it is truly representative.

michael
Posts: 1272
Joined: 26 Sep 2006 12:56
Location: Forest Hill

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by michael » 1 Sep 2011 15:16

I hope the member of the mosaic committee who raised objections to Tim publishing their name online will be taking legal action against Lewisham council for publishing their name, or was somebody left off the official minutes?

I haven't seen any objections on this forum that would actually constitute planning objections, so it is not surprising that it is being recommended for approval. Sections 4.12-4.19 make interesting reading and confirm some of the concerns raised by Tim and others regarding consultation, community involvement, and commissioning community art projects. But I'm not convinced that a complex tendering and consultation process necessarily produce better art.

Paddy Pantsdown
Posts: 204
Joined: 1 Oct 2004 10:04
Location: Venner Road

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Paddy Pantsdown » 1 Sep 2011 16:34

I think it fair to say those in Sydenham with a background in the visual arts are mostly of the opinion that this mosaic has little or no artistic merit. Those of us without are divided over whether we like or dislike the project.

This is essentially a public project to be largely financed from the public purse and the subs of those of us in the Sydenham Society. The efforts of the committee and supporters in conceiving and creating this project is to be applauded. It is through no fault of theirs that it does not have the wholehearted support of the community. Those that oppose it are not a small clique but a diverse and significant part of our community. We all want to improve Sydenham. We should be working together,

I hope the mosaic committee will take note of this and realise the mosaic is unlikely to achieve its aim of building a better and united community. It is and will divide us. It is a big ask but I feel we must ask the committee to reconsider and put the project aside - even at this late stage. To do so after all their efforts would be a hard one to make. But just because you have so much invested in it should not blind you to what your fellow members of the community are thinking and saying.

Now is the time. Take a deep breath.

PP

Robin Orton
Posts: 3229
Joined: 9 Sep 2008 07:30
Location: London SE26

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Robin Orton » 1 Sep 2011 19:29

I think it fair to say those in Sydenham with a background in the visual arts are mostly of the opinion that this mosaic has little or no artistic merit.
It would be helpful to know who (apart from Lee of course) you have in mind, Paddy.
Those that oppose it are not a small clique but a diverse and significant part of our community.
What's the evidence for this? There were, it appears, only nineteen written objections by local residents, despite the efforts made on this forum, and no doubt elsewhere, to whip up opposition to the project.
I hope the mosaic committee will take note of this and realise the mosaic is unlikely to achieve its aim of building a better and united community. It is and will divide us
If the mosaic goes ahead (as I personally hope it does) no doubt some people won't like it, but that would be true of any new piece of public art, wouldn't it, other than the very blandest?Paddy's apocalyptic language is arguably a bit OTT, and makes it sound as if the mosaic would divide the community on the lines of the Spanish civil war or the Battle of the Boyne!

I personally think the mosaic could actually help unite the community, not necessarily on its artistic merits (on which I am keeping an open mind), but because it will give us all a picture of our history as a place, something we can show our young people to help make them proud of being Sydenhamers (or Sydenhamites if you insist) - perhaps even help to induce them not to trash Sydenham Road when the rioting season next comes round. I remember when I was a boy in Leicester seeing the statues of local worthies (e.g. Simon de Montfort) on the Victorian Gothic Clock Tower and how this helped me to feel proud of my city. The mosaic could do something similar for the children of Sydenham.

Tim Lund
Posts: 6687
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Tim Lund » 1 Sep 2011 21:31

Robin Orton wrote:
I think it fair to say those in Sydenham with a background in the visual arts are mostly of the opinion that this mosaic has little or no artistic merit.
It would be helpful to know who (apart from Lee of course) you have in mind, Paddy.
The names of the formal objectors are in the public domain. A significant number are involved with the Sydenham Arts Festival Visual Arts Trail, two on the committee. Look in the list of Mosaic committee members, now on line. None were involved in the trail this year. Others closely involved with the Visual Arts Trail have made their dismay about this mosaic clear to me, but do not want to be identified as opposing it. I am happy to pass you, Robin, their names in confidence.
Robin Orton wrote:
Those that oppose it are not a small clique but a diverse and significant part of our community.
What's the evidence for this? There were, it appears, only nineteen written objections by local residents, despite the efforts made on this forum, and no doubt elsewhere, to whip up opposition to the project.
In this often apathetic world, nineteen is not a bad number of objectors, especially given (1) the impression given - maybe correctly - that approval was assured, and (2) the reluctance already mentioned of several to get involved - typically for reasons of personal friendships. I hope you'll believe me, Robin, when I say that the various submissions to the planning department, which are all in the public domain, what you may have read on this Forum, and comments at Sydenham Assembly meetings pretty well cover the opposition to the project.

I might add that most of the formal objectors were not known to me previously, other than quite cursorily, and we come to our views from quite diverse backgrounds, which backs up what PP wrote. Incidentally, Lee was not one of the formal objectors, so it is quite wrong to personalise opposition to the mosaic round him.

But I think there's a serious point in what Robin is suggesting, which is that this Forum feels anti-mosaic, and that it takes some courage to defend what here is clearly very unpopular. This sets up a dynamic in which pro-mosaic views don't get expressed. But not that much courage, surely; posts could be made from the security of a keyboard, without having to face a room full of people, in person, who resent what you write. They could even use an alias, if they wanted. Contrast this with the feeling of speaking against the mosaic, in person, at the Sydenham Assembly, where a similar dynamic means that opponents of the mosaic don't feel comfortable, and cease to attend. This was my thinking in suggesting a carefully selected cross section of the people of Sydenham for the clapometer.
Robin Orton wrote:
I hope the mosaic committee will take note of this and realise the mosaic is unlikely to achieve its aim of building a better and united community. It is and will divide us
If the mosaic goes ahead (as I personally hope it does) no doubt some people won't like it, but that would be true of any new piece of public art, wouldn't it, other than the very blandest?
Indeed. Public art, even the best, tends to be divisive, certainly at the time. St Paul's Cathedral was not popular, and Michaelangelo's David was highly political. So any public art is a high risk way of trying to unite a community. That requires a lot of patient consensus building, which may, as Michael remarked earlier, not promote great art. In this case efforts to build a consensus have clearly failed.
Robin Orton wrote:I personally think the mosaic could actually help unite the community, not necessarily on its artistic merits (on which I am keeping an open mind), but because it will give us all a picture of our history as a place, something we can show our young people to help make them proud of being Sydenhamers (or Sydenhamites if you insist) - perhaps even help to induce them not to trash Sydenham Road when the rioting season next comes round.
Hmm ... well, let's say I find that a bit of a stretch :D

Paddy Pantsdown
Posts: 204
Joined: 1 Oct 2004 10:04
Location: Venner Road

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Paddy Pantsdown » 2 Sep 2011 09:16

Robin - I have been very careful not to take sides on this issue. I am not one of the 19 and am neither a whipper nor the whipped. I merely report on what I see and hear. I fear you are in danger of shooting the messenger rather than examining the message.

What is the message? I apologise if my lack of literacy skills has not made it clear. Let me try another way. Many of the people involved in the Mosaic Project have also been involved in Sydenham Music and the Sydenham Arts Festival. Even if your interests do not include classical music or poetry reading and may have niggles about programmes and quality the consensus in Sydenham is they are A GOOD THING. They started as private ventures and went on to use public money and both have undoubtedly 'lifted' Sydenham. It would be a true Scrooge to begrudge this.

So I ask these same people: Do they think the Mosaic Project has a similar level of support across our diverse community? Remember, unlike music or poetry which are loved or loathed for the short duration of their performance, this project will be a permanent exhibit which will exert a positive experience for those who like the roundels, it will also be a blot for those that don't. It will literally hang over the Sydenham Assembly.

Robin, you accuse me of an apocalyptic outburst. No mention and no thought of the Spanish Civil War or the Battle of the Boyne was most certainly in my mind. I think you lost it there. Quite the contrary. This project, though worthy, is not going to transform Sydenham. It is leading to a load of bitching. Both sides are guilty of this. I know - I've heard. Good people who have done much to improve Sydenham Road (and still have a very long way to go) have rubbished each other rather than finding something they can unite on.

I am not supporting those trying to stop the project by means fair or foul because they don't like it. I'm asking the Mosaic Committee to get out there and critically examine whether there is widespread and wholehearted support for this project. If not, I have no objection if they wish to pursue it as a private project.

I do have objection if a project with neither takes public and civic money. Do you not agree?

I know it is hard to try and objectively and critically examine your own baby. Those who have had to do it in their own job know only too well. However, it is worth it in the end. I can only hope the Mosaic Committee will do likewise.

PP

biscuitman1978
Posts: 1588
Joined: 16 May 2006 20:14
Location: Chislehurst; previously Sydenham

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by biscuitman1978 » 2 Sep 2011 10:16

Robin Orton wrote:What's the evidence for this? There were, it appears, only nineteen written objections by local residents, despite the efforts made on this forum, and no doubt elsewhere, to whip up opposition to the project.
In planning terms, the grounds for objecting to applications such as these (for advertising consent) are narrow. Had there been clear grounds to object I would have done so.

Sadly I fear we will end up with some rather twee representations of cats (amongst other things) on a building which is, in my view, ill suited to displaying a mosaic.

Rachael
Posts: 2435
Joined: 23 Jan 2010 13:42
Location: Sydenham / Forest Hill Intersection

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Rachael » 2 Sep 2011 13:04

michael wrote:I'm not convinced that a complex tendering and consultation process necessarily produce better art.
Agreed, but it does, however, often prevent the commissioning of bad public art.

When I say 'bad' I am not making an aesthetic judgement, but a more practical one. As I may have said elsewhere (I can't remember) I wrote my Ph.D thesis on the commissioning of public art. There are indeed many examples of bland public art that has been commissioned by committee, and in those cases, no art would have been a better option. There are, though, many examples of good, if not outstanding, art in the public realm.

To get back to the Sydenham mosaic, I can see a number of practical problems with commissioning a mosaic, problems that would probably have been addressed at the planning stage if this project had gone through a more traditional commissioning process.

Outdoor mosaics are rarely successful in this country. Sydenham is not Barcelona. Moasics quickly get grimy and are hard to clean, especially the grouting. Mosaic tiles can come loose (especially in the period immediately following installation) and crack in winter weather. Has the mosaic committee set up a ongoing maintenance budget for years to come? If anyone can give me an example of a mosaic on the exterior of a building in the UK that really works, and doesn't look a bit sad and faded, I'll take my hat off to you.

The scale of these mosaics is wrong for this building. The mosaic tesserae are small, the detail of the images intricate. Little of this will be properly visible from the ground as the viewer will be too far away. Again, a commissioning process that asked for tenders from different artists may have thrown light on this issue at an early stage.

Do any of these issues count as grounds for objection in the official planning process?

michael
Posts: 1272
Joined: 26 Sep 2006 12:56
Location: Forest Hill

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by michael » 2 Sep 2011 13:34

rshdunlop wrote: If anyone can give me an example of a mosaic on the exterior of a building in the UK that really works, and doesn't look a bit sad and faded, I'll take my hat off to you.
Image

Possibly a little faded after 100 years, but still quite stunning. But I have to admit I hardly ever stop to admire the art work in the mosaic as I walk past on the way to the park.

I've been careful not to express an opinion on the mosaic as I don't live in Sydenham and it should be the decision of people who live and shop in Sydenham. But there is little doubt that the Naborhood Centre is currently an eye sore and pleasant imagery around the town centre is likely to have a positive effect (and I am taking action to make this happen in Forest Hill - though not with a mosaic).

Rachael
Posts: 2435
Joined: 23 Jan 2010 13:42
Location: Sydenham / Forest Hill Intersection

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Rachael » 2 Sep 2011 13:42

I'll give you that, Michael. That is lovely. And appropriate to the building.

leenewham
Posts: 5886
Joined: 2 Sep 2007 11:58
Location: SYDENHAM
Contact:

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by leenewham » 2 Sep 2011 13:59

Yes, that's a great example of a mosaic that works. It sits in a recess in the building that has been designed for the artwork.

Look at the entrance to shops when the brand name appears in mosaic type as you enter the shop. They look great there too.

If you like an image you can't just stick it on something hoping it will make it better. This mosaic has totally ignored the context of it's situation.

Plastered all over a building never intended for a mural, with wavy lines (why do some insist on art having to have movement when it's not even relevant to the art?) and curls that half cut through burglar alarms and windows on a square blocky 1960's building with images from the previous century in a medium that dates back to Roman times is the worst possible example of how a mosaic or indeed any public art project should progress.

poppy
Posts: 574
Joined: 1 Sep 2007 20:03
Location: Sydenham

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by poppy » 2 Sep 2011 16:18

I think the name of this thread needs to be changed to 'saying NO to the mosaic'. Surely!! :)

Tim Lund
Posts: 6687
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Tim Lund » 2 Sep 2011 17:36

Poppy - the question mark at the end of the thread name is important. It is there to raise a doubt over the support for the project from other organisations implied in documents the Mosaic Committee submitted to Lewisham Planning - such organisations being the Sydenham Society, the Sydenham Arts Festival and the Thorpes Residents' Association.

Robin Orton
Posts: 3229
Joined: 9 Sep 2008 07:30
Location: London SE26

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Robin Orton » 2 Sep 2011 20:03

The names of the formal objectors are in the public domain. A significant number are involved with the Sydenham Arts Festival Visual Arts Trail [...] Others closely involved with the Visual Arts Trail have made their dismay about this mosaic clear to me, but do not want to be identified as opposing it.
Thanks for this information, Tim. Clearly some weight - one could argue about how much - should be given to the fact that some of the objectors can be assumed to have a well-formed taste in the visual arts. I agree with Lee that it would be better if the sponsors had commissioned an 'artist's impression' of what the mosaic might look like when it is finished.
I do have objection if a project with neither [widespread nor wholehearted support] takes public and civic money. Do you not agree?
Well, yes, Paddy, although arguably we do not have much information about how much support there actually is for the project in its current, admittedly inchoate, form. It seems to me that it is quite possible that if you stood outside the Naborhood Centre with a clipboard and asked passers-by whether they favoured the idea of a mosaic, you would get a majority of positive answers.

And in any case, most of the money is not coming from public funds, but from voluntary contributions, which the sponsors are working hard to encourage. This is the product not of civic cultural bureaucracy, but of enthusiasts with a vision and a concern for the community which they are prepared to back up in real practical terms with courage and hard work. I think we should be grateful to them, and cut them as much slack as possible.
I fear we will end up with some rather twee representations of cats (amongst other things)
It is unfortunate that this wretched cat has had so much publicity. (A skilful move there, Tim!) As has been pointed out, it will be the smallest roundel and high up on the frontage.
The mosaic tesserae are small, the detail of the images intricate. Little of this will be properly visible from the ground as the viewer will be too far away.
I wonder if that is the case, Rachael? I would not have expected at an experienced mosaicist such as Oliver Budd (the President of the Society of Modern Mosaicists, we are told) to have committed what sounds like a pretty elementary mistake.
This mosaic has totally ignored the context of its situation [...] [It] is the worst possible example of how a mosaic or indeed any public art project should progress.
I venture to suggest, Lee, that sometimes breaking the rules in this way, by adding something in a totally different style to an existing building, can work magnificently, e.g. in the case of a large number of historic English churches and cathedrals.

Rachael
Posts: 2435
Joined: 23 Jan 2010 13:42
Location: Sydenham / Forest Hill Intersection

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Rachael » 2 Sep 2011 21:18

I may be wrong about the scale, Robin, but that is the impression I get from the drawings and the photo of one of the roundels that appeared on this site a while ago. It does seem like a fundamental error, and it may be that the illustrations presented thus far are not accurate.

[ Post made via Mobile Device ] Image

Tim Lund
Posts: 6687
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Tim Lund » 3 Sep 2011 12:10

Robin Orton wrote:This is the product not of civic cultural bureaucracy, but of enthusiasts with a vision and a concern for the community which they are prepared to back up in real practical terms with courage and hard work. I think we should be grateful to them, and cut them as much slack as possible.
I would say, as a general point, that how grateful anyone should be for anything should depend on how good they think it is - not on the status or attitudes of the people responsible for it. Enthusiasm, vision and concern for the community are all good things in themselves, but I'm sure you can think of examples where they don't necessarily lead to positive outcomes. Some slack should obviously be cut, but as much as appropriate, not as much as possible.

In this case, the interesting question is why so much slack has been cut. Compare this with another project which I'd imagine is another example of enthusiasm, vision and concern for the community
Priority 3 - Vibrant high street including inclusive community
...

Sydenham Mosaic - sponsorship of a roundel - £3,000
Agreed to go forward

Forest Hill Community Church/Sydenham ESOL Project at Here for Good - £1,800
Does not meet Assembly priorities
Sydenham Assembly Coordinating Group Meeting, 28 April 2011

First, there is a complication here, because what these minutes state is barely credible - that teaching English as a second language does not meet a priority of 'inclusive community'. However, I have subsequently been informed that the application was actually not very strong, which is more plausible, but it does imply that a decision was made not to cut this particular project the slack it wanted. I've no reason to think that this decision was inappropriate, given that with a limited budget, some such decisions have to be made. But cutting one project all the slack possible, because of the enthusiasm and community spirit behind it, means that the same becomes impossible for others.

It's easy to understand why slack should be cut for a group whose supporters have time to come to meeting such as the Sydenham Assembly, organise various fund-raising projects, and have the confidence to network with local Councillors and other local opinion makers. But I feel we have a duty not to forget 'the harder to reach' groups.

Tim Lund
Posts: 6687
Joined: 13 Mar 2008 18:10
Location: Silverdale

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Tim Lund » 3 Sep 2011 12:13

Robin Orton wrote:Well, yes, Paddy, although arguably we do not have much information about how much support there actually is for the project in its current, admittedly inchoate, form. It seems to me that it is quite possible that if you stood outside the Naborhood Centre with a clipboard and asked passers-by whether they favoured the idea of a mosaic, you would get a majority of positive answers.
Are you up for this Robin, on condition that we also offer other options of how this money might have been spent?

Robin Orton
Posts: 3229
Joined: 9 Sep 2008 07:30
Location: London SE26

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by Robin Orton » 3 Sep 2011 16:20

Are you up for this Robin, on condition that we also offer other options of how this money might have been spent?
Who, me, in my state of health? Anyway, the point I was making was not about spending priorities (which is in an case now a hypothetical issue in that, so far as I know, nobody is now proposing that further public money be spent on the project). I was merely wondering whether there might not be substantial public support (leaving aside the question of who was paying) for the idea of a placing a mosaic on the theme of Sydenham and its history, designed and executed by a well-known mosaicist who has already successfully done similar work elsewhere, on the facade of the Naborhood Centre.

leenewham
Posts: 5886
Joined: 2 Sep 2007 11:58
Location: SYDENHAM
Contact:

Re: SAYING YES TO THE MOSAIC ON THE NABORHOOD CENTRE?

Post by leenewham » 3 Sep 2011 20:58

Hand on heart, is this the best solution for improving the Naborhood centre? If just 2 options (hopefully more) had been on the table initially in a proper consultation between the mosaic and just doing it up in line with this:http://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic. ... +naborhood which one do you think would have been the most popular and which one the best use of public funds?

Post Reply