Talk – The Horizontal and the Vertical

The Horizontal and the Vertical

I will briefly introduce myself as an artist who has led self-initiated residencies working in Beijing and then in New York. I will speak about ‘The horizontal and the vertical’ and show slides of my work and others that relate to my theoretical and methodological approach.

I will examine my deliberate transition from Beijing to New York and how this very recent phase in my work has informed my thinking and practice. I will explore and expand upon ideas of what I call a fantasy landscape specific to these places. The usefulness of a fantasy being that it may hold a more apolitical stance and that it need not be tied to current moral or idealised constraints.

My work explores the surreal side effects resulting from the rapid changes travelling between these landscapes. Thinking through how these two cities have evolved and how each community has decided upon what is to be kept and what is to be discarded in the fabric of their existence. What is kept and what is disregarded in terms of land use. Restoration practice, which sees old buildings being demolished and new streets being built in the style of the old. The importance of maintaining traditions and how control and ownership of land is made manifest.
The role of the fantasy both in terms of where communities originate and where these ‘future cities’ may take us.

IMG_6150 Outside the library, NYC. © Helen Couchman
Outside the Library. New York City

Processes of exchange in the landscapes of Beijing and New York. Mapping change, preservation and demolition.

My area of investigation is into the reciprocity and exchange between inhabitants, business, architects and governments who develop environments, change cities and thus society’s behaviour. I am interested in exploring utopian ideas of developing communities and what the communities have to relinquish in order to move towards what is frequently promised to be an improved future.
I am interested in land and cityscapes where the view is fast changing and in exploring the reasons for, and immediate outcome of, such dramatic changes.

In 2009 for the first time more than fifty percent of the world’s population lived in cities.

Helen Couchman January, 2012

Talk at 2.30pm, UAL, London College of Fashion, Tuesday 12th February