Golden Thread Gallery Belfast
25.04.21 - 29.05.21

not only the earth we share is an exhibition by Sol Archer at Golden Thread Gallery (Belfast, 24 April - 29 May 2021) curated by Household that examines the past, present, and future of a small neighbourhood in Belfast called Sailortown.

Sailortown was a traditional Belfast neighbourhood which, until it was demolished in the 1970s, housed thousands of families who worked in maritime trade, factories, the docks, and the harbour. Sailortown is still physically home to a much smaller community of people today, including residents living in apartments built in the early 90’s and 00s, and is spiritually home to those who used to inhabit its dense terraced streets.

Since 2018, at the invitation of Household, Sol Archer has spent time with communities intersecting, identifying, or operating in Sailortown and the surrounding area: elderly former residents, new migrant communities, local grassroots organisations, and children and young people living in local social housing. His resulting residency project, The production of daily life, positions the neighbourhood as a microcosm where histories are memorialised and (re-)enacted; the forces of regeneration and speculation are at play and can be playfully examined; and community and communities is formed and (re-)imagined.

For the scattered evicted community of Sailortown, the razed area and unfulfilled promise of return is the centre of group identity. Sol’s work has focused on the production of community and commons, ongoing creative and community activities in relation to this experience of expulsion, particularly in song, theatre, and poetry written by dockworkers and their families, and the performed memory of domestic life and work on the sites of the demolished streets. Alongside this activity, Sol has been running film workshops with the young residents of new social housing – the children that live and play in Sailortown – imagining their relation to the city, and their future as the city develops around them.

The films included in not only the earth we share are informed by strategies of auto-representation and the social and creative practices of the communities of Sailortown. They explore how storytelling, identity and community are constituents of urban commoning and can result from, and act as agents of, neighbourhood resistance. The films are exhibited at Golden Thread Gallery alongside archival films sourced from the community, paintings by a local Arts and Crafts group, sculptural props that reference the architectural features of the original buildings in the former neighbourhood, and hanging fabric sculptural interventions that direct movement in the gallery and are reminiscent of domestic community spaces.

Documentation Simon Mills courtesy Golden Thread gallery