Community Research Office

Apolonija Sustersic

Curated by Liutauras Psibilskis

IBID Projects, London, January – March 2003

The book published by Revolver, Frankfurt am Main, 2004:

From the introduction to Community Research Office book:

In Community Research Office Apolonija, myself, Vita Zaman and Magnus Edensvärd became the staff of a consultant agency or a brainstorming team dealing with ideas of gentrification, with urban change and strategy. We were on permanent ready-to-go alert. We were making calls, arranging meetings, developing concepts, producing interviews and making lots of visual documentation in order to remember, represent and reproduce meanings that related to the situation we were getting involved in.

Apolonija and myself came to East London as relative outsiders. We brought only our previous experience and our wish to explore the area. We wanted to understand how urban development was taking place there. We wanted to study the impact of artistic or creative activities (including our own) on changes in social networks, on the circulation of capital and on the visuality of a place, which is often regarded as a mere consquence of the movement of capital. Every new visitor to our project space brought in new information. They were able to challenge our concepts and alter he direction of our research with their thoughts. It was the visitors who provided the direction.

The Community Research Office started with a correspondence between Apolonija and myself, and with an idea to change the gallery space into an office space and to expose the internal process of artistic research to the public. By doing this we became performers exposed to the public eye during extensive office hours. The subject of our interest was very context-specific: gentrification in the area of East London. It was based on Apolonija’s ongoing interest in such matters. But the results transcended the theme.

The project was based on a very local phenomenon, but it mirrored processes that happen globally. For the duration of the project we produced some significant visible changes in the gallery space. These reflected the mutation of a standard gallery interior into an office or something like a community center-cum-consulting agency. Starting with a completely empty white cube, we gradually installed office furniture designed by Apolonija herself and then filled the room with a variety of information to be shared with the visitors. We bought plants from a local flower shop that was closing down. We made symbolic colour changes in the space, representing our critical position on the ever-increasing presence of private capital in the public area. We made excursions to other people’s homes, to offices and to sites that were focal points of public controversy or fighting grounds for people representing different interest groups. We documented all these stages of our work, trying to grasp the essence of the situation.

We would like to thank all the people who took part in the development of the Community Research Office project. Supported by the Mondriaan Foundation and the Dutch Embassy in London.