Walking the Elephant

Authors: Luise Vormittag*, University of the Arts London
Topics: Communication, Social Geography
Keywords: illustration, community, participation, world-making
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Elephant & Castle is well known as the biggest centre of Latin Americans in the UK. The site’s redevelopment is threatening their continued presence. This paper introduces my work as an illustrator with Latin Elephant, a local charity that
promotes the inclusion of migrant and ethnic groups in processes of urban change.

External visitors to Elephant and Castle have a visual experience dominated by the timeworn materiality of the physical space. As an illustrator I am able to draw attention to the topographical imaginary, the mental image of local residents, populated with associated stories, memories and experiences. Together with Latin Elephant I designed a participatory project, which resulted in illustrated outputs that speak of the vitality of the site.

My work aims to visualises otherwise invisible social relations, perceptions and habitual uses of a place resulting in a graphic palimpsest of spatially grounded stories. The work materialises the social relations that contributed to its making and subsequently speaks of them to others. Illustration projects can facilitate ‘making sense together’ (Forester 1985), or materialise ‘the wandering labour of sense’ (Nancy 1997).

Using this work as an example I ask what these kinds of projects can tell us more generally about the nature of community. Jean-Luc Nancy proposes our ontological condition as being ‘singular-plural’: Community is not predicated on a shared essence or identity but is produced in continuous act of communication. Illustrations, that refer to joint matters of concern, have the potential to gather up individuals in an expression of community.

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