Larissa Fassler, Manchester I (detail), 2019-2020.
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Jérôme Poggi, Paris, France.
Hello. My name is Larissa Fassler and I am the artist who created this Manchester drawing series. I thought that for this audio guide I would speak briefly about 3 aspects of my work: First, a bit about how my art sits at the intersection between visual art and architecture; second, some of my first impressions upon arriving in Manchester and thirdly, what I found promising about the city and how this project has pushed me forwards as an artist.
I have been living outside of my hometown of Vancouver, Canada since 1996. I have lived in Montreal; in London and in Paris (both for short periods) and for 20 years now in Berlin, Germany, where I make my home. I have also spent time on the ground, researching other cities such as Istanbul in Turkey; Calgary in Canada, New York City and now Manchester in New Hampshire.
Each of these cities is of course very different having different histories, languages, culture, attitudes, social mores and traditions, but they are each also very different in their city design, how their public spaces are shaped and used.
Some of these cities feels organic, others rigid, and grid based. Some have densely packed built environments, another feel spread out, even sprawling. Some offer generous, interesting public spaces, others suffer from a lack there of. I started to become very curious about how these different, built environments, how the design of our cities, especially our public spaces effect the way we move through, use and inhabit space and, possibly, even more important, how the shape and design of our shared public space effects, and even so some extent, determines the interactions we have with one another.
My first days In Manchester were eye-opening. I had forgotten the car-focused nature of North America cities. On my first walks out into the city to find a grocery store, to walk the bank, to stroll downtown, I was stuck how very few other people were out walking. It was summer. The weather was beautiful and yet on my walks I feel quite alone, rarely seeing others out on foot. Intersections felt difficult to cross and the pedestrian lights took forever to turn green. Sidewalks were broken and bumpy and pretty destroyed. As a user of the city, as a pedestrian, I felt very much like a last priority. The downtown, Elm Street felt lively and busy. It was interesting to watch the ebbs and flows of this busyness and how things quieted down and emptied after the lunch and dinner rushes. On Sundays this emptiness felt even greater. I observed how this pedestrian life and energy was contained to Elm street and did not penetrate much to streets beyond. Then exploring the areas around, Veteran’s Park, Manchester Street and Victory Park I was immediately confronted by the impact, harm and devastation cause by the opioid crisis. Poverty, destitution and despair in these areas was palpable and led to many questions.
During my time in Manchester I met a whole range of engaged, intelligent and caring people who were working on finding and creating solutions. I was struck by the number of different initiatives designed to care for and to help other people. Manchester seems to be a great little city, with an amazing history, but a city that has faced and is continuing to face huge challenges. How do cities become interesting, vibrant and desirable places? How can cities, communities, government alleviate the suffering caused by generational poverty and the opioid crisis. How can access to the means for a better life be made available to more of its citizens?
Working on this Manchester project led me to ask questions and to develop ways of thinking and mapping that were new to me. In these works, I move from documenting the experiences of the individual, to trying to map the larger systems and forces that impact our cities and our lives.