In-Situ is an arts organisation based in Pendle, Lancashire that supports art as a part of daily life. Following Amy’s successful residency in 2013, In-Situ invited her back to create ‘Arcade of Nelson’, a public installation of arcade games in collaboration with the local community.
Before home-based console games, the local arcade was a space of risk, danger, bright lights and potentially delinquent behavior. These days, arcades are more associated with holidays and seaside resorts – places and times where real life is somehow suspended. The arcade, in other words, is a potent symbol. It conjures a nostalgic kind of futurism, playing with the memories of how you dreamed life could be.
For Amy Pennington, the arcade is the perfect way to continue an engagement with the local community of Brierfield. Through a series of public workshops, Amy will create a new set of arcade games, which directly reference the histories and ideas of local residents. Together, the games will be a part-functioning, sculptural installation, with real one-arm bandits encased in makeshift materials like cardboard and wood. These temporary casings will draw attention to the symbolic space the arcade games occupy between real life objects and the audience’s imagination. At the same time, this installation plays with the role of the artist as both interpreter of the past, and sculptor of the future.
In fact, the process of community engagement manifests The Arcade of Nelson as much as the sculptural objects do. As well as the workshops, Amy is programming a series of public events under the name ‘Arcade of Nelson’, which develop the arcade not only as a symbolic space for an imagined community, but also as a symbolic community in its own right. In June 2016, for example, Arcade of Nelson presented an ‘In and Out Party’, themed around the upcoming referendum on membership of the EU. Through conversations, cups of tea and games, the event facilitated real debate about a notoriously divisive issue, among a divided public. In this way, the Arcade occupies a space full of potential – the potential for community, for political change, and for future material conditions.