Image: © Julia Waugh
Contemporary artists engage with the risk of the social in ever greater proximity. "In the nature of representing, when people come together there can be a certain kind of chemistry... a thing that doesn't get written about, really doesn't get any visibility... that goes against that central narrative of individualism privatisation, a kind of false autonomy."
Jen Wu was interviewed for #airedeturner produced and curated by Waugh Office for Venice Agendas at Turner Contemporary in Margate England "My involvement with basically the homeless crisis or war, and in some sense it is a war, I felt like I was living in a war zone, I had spent 3 months living on the streets of Manchester supporting various homeless camps... which started on the 15th of April as a march and rally to bring awareness to the homeless crisis."
Her story was told via Skype, we lost connection several times as her voice faded the image on screen fragmented.
Image: © Jen Wu
Image: © Manchester Evening Newsi
One video is extremely shocking, showing a lady who The Mancunion understands to be artist and homeless activist Jen WU being taken away by four male enforcement officers, while protestors endeavour to push the enforcement officers and police away from her. In the video she appears to be dropped straight on her head as protestors grapple with the enforcement officers. A few hours later our reporter Joe Evans saw Jen Wu, obviously shaken from her experience, carried into an ambulance on a stretcher. At 1:50pm Manchester Metropolitan University released a lengthy statement. Key to this statement was the claims that: “The majority of the protestors who were removed this morning are not recognised as homeless individuals, either by the City Council or by Greater Manchester Police.”
Manchester Metropolitan also claimed in their statement that “Throughout this period, several members of the group have been aggressive and verbally abusive to university employees. “At no point were our security staff involved in any direct altercations with the group.” This last point concerning altercations seems to be in direct conflict with video reports and testaments made by residents. Dominic Alicandro, a resident of ‘The Ark’, said that “evicting homeless people in the winter—when the most amount of deaths happen in the winter [is] appalling.”
Simon Pook, a solicitor who works for Robert Lizar Solicitors, a firm currently advising the homeless involved in this incident spoke to The Mancunion saying: “Having watched the video of the incident I am very concerned at the way Jen Wu was physically dropped on the pavement. Why was there that level of violence taking place? “Also I am concerned at the way Jen Wu was carried by four male enforcement officers. There were female officers on site, were they not available? As far as I am concerned it’s an absolute travesty. The issue of homelessness in Manchester cannot be solved with eviction alone. You can’t just keep moving the problem on to the next place. I demand that the University of Manchester Students’ Union Exec Team take up this issue with Manchester Metropolitan’s Union officers.
“However, I and my firm will continue to work closely with these vulnerable people to ensure that their fundamental human rights are respected and they are allowed some dignity.” - William Brown and Joe C Evans
“Is what you see what I see?”
Waugh Office Productions is an