Written by Seun Mustafa
Photos and illustrations by May Mustapha
09 Monday 09th August 2010

Anyone that has spent any time near or in the public park opposite Auto Italia’s new space just off the old Kent road may have noticed the brightly coloured ribbons adorning the trees in there. For anybody wondering they are part of an installation created by Auto Italia and artist Breer Lazidj Nahr, an installation entitled Ribbons! The shape of an exhibition. Having seen and wondered what the Sam hell was going on we decided to head down there, get Breer out and ask him to explain.

Of course the obvious (although maybe a little cynical) way to describe Ribbons! would be to say that it's lots of long, brightly coloured pieces of string tied to branches of a few trees in a park in Peckham. Another would be to point out that Ribbons isn't really about the ribbons at all and is instead a concept piece, a work that serves to 'address the notion of an exhibition by considering and expanding both its site and its timeframe'.
What this actually means is that without prior permission the artist, Breer Lazidj Nahr, scaled the trees and attached the ribbons in accordance with the hallowed rules of street art (not getting permission, not immediately explaining yourself) it's at this point that the actual point of the installation begins to take form.
The point being that the ribbons were never meant to be there and won't be forever, people will see them and wonder what's going on and what purpose they serve. In time, of course the local council will show up, demanding explanations and threatening to remove them. It's during this discourse that Auto Italia will attempt to convince the council and the local residents to come together and between them replace the ribbons with something longer lasting that will serve the community. The ribbons act as a kind of freehand sketch, a draft of a work yet to be finished. Upon completion the ribbons will be removed and the plan is that everyone will benefit from whatever remains there.
For anybody who has been following the works of the collective, the thinking behind Ribbons! should come as no surprise. Auto Italia has always been about appropriating unused spaces and giving them back to the community they originally belonged to, be they decrepit old car showrooms or unimaginative, near abandoned community spaces. Another, very valid point is the small community of homeless junkies bedding down mere footsteps from the ribbons. If anything does happen here it will at least serve to highlight the fact that there are people living in the park. Hopefully the project will take on a new relevance in regards to them along with the rest of the community they belong to.
Taking, in part, its inspiration from Julian Gracq's 1985 novel The Shape of a City the collective will continue to push their ideas and visions for the park and welcome any ideas or support from the local people and art collective. Feel free to check the place out, get involved or voice your opinion by getting down to their showroom and having a chat.  
Ribbons! The shape of an exhibition runs until August 22 at Auto Italia, Peckham.

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