Gesche Würfel is a visual artist whose practice is primarily photographic. She engages with spaces in transition through genres of urban, landscape and architecture photography. Her interest lies primarily in the notion of place, the relationship humans have to space, and the methods employed for changing (in)habitable places. Her photographic work is influenced by her experience as an urban planner, and by having lived in diverse settings, from rural to suburban to urban, across Europe and the United States. These experiences have given her a wealth of comparative and in-depth knowledge about spaces and developed her critical eye towards the politics of spatial developments.
“Go for Gold!” is an ongoing series of photographs that depicts how the 2012 Olympic Games are transforming London’s landscape. The project started in 2006 with images of future sports venues that capture the last moments of the Lea Valley landscape before it was razed to make way for the Olympics’ international development programme. It continuous to show the massive social and geographical transformations the Lower Lea Valley landscape is undergoing as work proceeds on the 2012 Olympic Games site. The promised legacy of the site will be major regeneration in terms of recreation, housing and small businesses. In the meantime there is significant disruption of established relationships between residents and their natural and built environment. ”Go for Gold!” critiques the use of regeneration to bolster London’s status as a global economic centre at the expense of local inhabitants’ needs. The Olympic slogan Go for Gold! primarily reflects London’s desire to remain on the stage of the ’Global Cities’ arena, without consideration for the needs of locals. Regeneration in this case is not about the Lower Lea Valley or East London, but it is about competing with other global cities. This will make London even more unequal since deindustrialisation will be enforced, financial services will be privileged and employment will be relocated.
The theme of spaces in transition is further developed in “Farewell from the Garden Paradise”. “Farewell from the Garden Paradise” (2007) depicts the long process of eviction of the Manor Garden Allotments plot holders. The allotments were closed in September 2007 and demolished to construct a footpath for the 2012 Olympic Games. The images present the contrast between the small personal spaces of sheds and the grand spaces of international development. The images also raise questions about the most appropriate approach to regeneration. They problematise the notion of the 2012 Olympics as ‘green’ (as often cited in promotional literature), by documenting the destruction of allotments that were a rare example of sustainably managed green spaces in East London. Furthermore, the photos reveal the complexand nuanced relationships between the plot holders and nature.
Gesche Würfel was born in Bremerhaven in 1976 where she spent her childhood. After having completed her degree in Spatial Planning from the University of Dortmund, Germany, she worked for several years in the field of regeneration and public participation. She then moved to London to study for an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, where she graduated with a distinction. She currently works and lives in Boston, MA. Her work has been exhibited widely, among others in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2007 show, which is an exhibition of the most promising new talent to emerge from art schools across the United Kingdom. Her work has recently been published in "Younger Than Jesus: The Artist Directory", co-published by the New Museum and Phaidon.
Opening Reception: Friday, February 19, 7pm
Gesche Würfel’s multi-year project Go for Gold! depicts the transformation of London’s landscape in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. A trained urban planner, Würfel began the project in 2006 as an investigation into globalization and how it disrupts relationships between residents and their natural and built environment.