At last we have begun work on the Soul of Sheffield community art project:
At ove r 50 metres across, the size of the space seemed overwhelming. The emptiness was bewildering as me and some of the other artists wandered around. Like a blank sheet of paper or empty canvas the familiar, fearful, feeling of facing the uphill struggle to create something from nothing welled up. But this time, rather than just gazing at a white sheet, we could walk around and inhabit the space that held the creative potential.
It was only after we’d laid down the circle of string to give an idea of where the city ring road might lie that we could begin to make sense of the space. Just a simple circle 8 metres in diameter but suddenly we could begin to envision what the emerging piece of art might look like and the feeling of fear gave way to the dizzy thrill of creation. By laying this one line we had made a decision and said ‘not this’ to the infinite other possibilities in the space: the first step on the road of creation.
There are other circles on the ground here too. You can see them if you look carefully at the photograph; rows of circles worn into the office-blue carpet from the desk chairs that used to spin and roll here every working day. This is challenging my view of the building. Initially I was hesitant to use what seems like a sterile and anonymous city office. But as I look deeper then the stories begin to reveal themselves.
These circles are the daily impressions of countless people and they hold the history of the place. Here people have been bored, have laughed, have flirted, have fallen in love, have been fired, have taken the emergency phone call from the hospital with bad news or good news. All of human life is here worn into the carpet like the grooves in the stone steps at an ancient cathedral. It’s so ordinary, what could be more ordinary than a bland and stained workplace floor, but the people who have filled the space, and who will fill the space again, make it extraordinary.
Thus my mistake is revealed, this isn’t an anonymous office space that could be swapped for a thousand other similar places across the country, after all. Just as the circle of string made something specific, something here and now to distinguish from the infinite, so the lives that flow through this building give it a history, give it a story. This story takes its place amongst the million other threads that weave to make the living community of the city and it’s these stories that we hope to discover and celebrate as we embark on the creative adventure.
For more information about the this project or to get involved then please visit www.soulofsheffield.com