The British collective Assemble, consisting of 18 members, takes a hands-on, collaborative approach to their projects. Whilst their work usually includes design, it rarely starts or ends there, often employing a range of means, from the social to the infrastructural, to make spaes which enable independence, self-authorship, creativity and difference.
Assemble started working together informally in 2009, and delivered their first project, the “Cineroleum”, in 2010. They transformed a former petrol station into a cinema, using borrowed, recycled and industrial materials, working together with around 200 friends, volunteers and passers-by. Similarly, for “Folly for a Flyover”, they turned a disused motorway undercroft in Hackney Wick, London, into an arts venue and new public space. Over nine weeks 40,000 local residents, artists and visitors from across London came and ate, watched and performed, and got involved with workshops, theatre, talks and walks.
In the wake of their Turner Prize win, both media and public wondered: “Is it art?”
For Assemble, it is not an issue. As Fran Edgerley responded: “Whether or not what we do is art has never been the most important thing for us. We are interested in doing good work, and sometimes that means acting as an architect, sometimes as an artist, sometimes as an organizer. We adopt the tools we need to use to address the situations we are acting within most effectively, and act as ourselves.”
Maria Lisogorskaya added: “Sometimes we are artists, but sometimes we are activists, builders, or even plumbers. It’s the project that matters.”