KIT Homes

Outline

 

KIT Homes

The project which initiated the Greylands series of works on contentious pieces of land, is called KIT Homes. Commissioned by Epilogue (Mike Stanley) in 1997, the context of the show involves the demolishing of a working class community symbol of ‘The Saints Fisher and More School’. The construction of the school in Widnes, UK in 1952 had been paid for over many years by the local community who gave a shilling a week out of their paypackets to subsidize the building. In 1997 a housing developer, through fair means or foul, persuades local government that it would be in the community’s best interest to have the school demolished to make way for a more middle-class housing estate of 3 bedroom houses.

KIT along with 7 other artists is invited to construct an installation within the school building. There are no limits as to what can be done structurally as long as it’s safe for the public to view the work. The lack of opportunity for the surrounding community to ask local government questions or maybe more pertinently to get honest answers is a major incentive in the development of KIT Homes.

For a 3-month period before the exhibition, KIT work with 10 children who attend the school. A simple question is asked of them. “What would your dream house look like if you were given the chance to build on the land left vacant after the school has been knocked down?” The children were asked to think about it for a couple of weeks after which time they worked on developing architectural blueprints for their projected houses. The designs are handed to KIT and the process of marking the plans out real size on the football pitches around the school begin.

Using a football pitch marker, which has a chalk and lime mixture in it, KIT spend a 3-week period, between bouts of rain and sitting in cars waiting for it to stop, marking out the plans. A 3–inch line mimics the lines that should have been on the grass had the process not been stopped months before because of the imminent demolition of the school. Since football, along with any other sports, is about the attack and defense of space, the school playing fields are selected as the place to mark the plans out. The lines demarcating the territory of the pitch are used as the language reflecting the relative attack by the housing developer on the community’s symbol – the school.

A small classroom on the second floor of the school is refurbished to look like a working office. A table with a computer and a phone has a secretary working behind it, giving visitors information about the project. Aerial photographs of the playing fields with the architectural plans marked on them are taken from a small plane. They are then printed as 24x36 inch colour photographs and adorn the walls of the office. Booklets explaining the process and rationale behind the work are made available. For each housing plan a one-sheet press release is produced, giving the name of the designer, house size and layout, incentives and interests behind each design.

After visits to the encroaching housing developer’s showroom / office nearby, many strategies are borrowed and applied. Within the estate to be built, there are 10 different types of house one can buy. Each house is named after an English literary figure such as ‘Dickens’. For the marked up KIT Homes estate, the naming strategy is mimicked and each house is named after an international football stadium to re-reference the context of the football fields. Postcards of the aerial photographs are produced and handed around the community in Widnes. When they are older, the children who participated can say, “I remember this when it was all fields”, and postcard in hand, they will have a documented version of what would have been built on those fields, had they been given a chance to determine the future of the landscape around them.

KIT Homes exhibits at the following site –

1997   The Saints Fisher and More School / Epilogue (Widnes, England)