PLATFORM has been described as many things - an arts group, a forum for political dialogue, an environmental campaign - but, in essence, it is an idea, a vision of using creativity to transform the society we live in; a belief in every individual's innate power to contribute to this process.
PLATFORM - promoting creative processes of democratic engagement to advance social and ecological justice...
Catalysts for Change > harnessing the power of art, the commitment of campaigning, and the imagination of education to unleash citizens’ creative and democratic potential.
Individuals not Representatives > creating unique spaces where people from different backgrounds and perspectives come together in an atmosphere of trust to discuss complex issues - ‘communities of interest’.
Practical and Poetic > using a variety of strategies from research to performances, from walks to renewable energy systems, from publications to discussion-feasts.
Interdisciplinary Creativity > creating the work by consistently combining the skills and experience of people from many different disciplines - economists to artists, psychologists to environmentalists.
Here & Elsewhere > evolving long-term projects which embody a deep commitment to London’s ecology and peoples while also exploring the nature of the city’s impacts on the wider world.
Infectious Visions > feeding innovative ideas into the bloodstream of society like a benevolent virus.
PLATFORM’s work is created out of love for particular places, a way of working that has enabled us to make long-term commitments to specific localities. Since 1989, the geographical location of PLATFORM’s work has essentially been our home, the metropolis of London. We investigate the city as medium, metaphor and actuality, a city located in a tidal valley in Northern Europe, home for several million people and innumerable other species. An organism that eats and excretes, consumes resources and produces waste. A place of immense creativity, vitality and hope, as well as conflict and despair.
Freedom in the City
Critical Walks in The City
Since 2002, PLATFORM has been running periodic and experimental walks around contemporary corporate culture. We have focused specifically on how the world‚s first and most enduring transnational corporation - the East India Company (1600-1858) - has much to teach us. "Loot! Reckoning with the East India Company" takes groups of 20 people around the sites of the Company in London's "Square Mile" (financial district) and East India Docks, making parellels with contemporary ethical issues in transnational corporate business.
The public walks have been completely oversubscribed on each occasion, and it has become clear that the strategy of using a walk to learn from history about how we can address contemporary issues is really successful. The walks are run as rolling discussions, and always lead to a couple of hours more conversation in the pub afterwards with a core of participants... The experience has led into the founding of a second strand to Freedom in The City, Museum of the Corporation.
PLATFORM has long used the walk as an important form for public space work. We have explored walking as a research tool, as a ritual, as performance, as intervention, as a political tool, and as a tool for sharing insights and information. Our walks have been devised by artists, historians, community activists, psychologists, and environmentalists in collaboration, and as solo ventures.
We are currently exploring walks according to the following themes:
The City as if it had never been built, The City before memory. These walks will explore the land and water underneath The City, juxtaposing the current ‘given’ with its pre-history, thus opening the imagination to its future. The Roman City of Londinium was founded on two wooded hills with a fresh water stream - the Walbrook - running between them, the city's walls surrounded by marshland. What might re-seeing this tell us? Guided walks along the rivers Walbrook and Fleet form part of this.
The City that erases itself, The City of Forgetting. These walks will explore the questions of visibility and invisibility of the impacts of commerce in The City and have commenced with the walk "Loot - Reckoning with the East India Company", devised by historian Nick Robins and PLATFORM core member Jane Trowell.
The East India Company remains the most powerful corporation the world has ever seen, a precursor to today’s transnational corporations. Starting out as a speculative venture to import spices from the East Indies - modern day Indonesia - the Company grew to fame and fortune by trading with and then conquering and governing India. But visit London today where the Company was headquartered for over 250 years, and little marks its rise and fall, its innovations and its crimes. The walk takes you round this invisible behemoth... and asks in terms of contemporary corporate behaviour, what has changed, and what has remained the same ? Crucially, what can we learn?
The walks visit sites of the company's headquarters in Philpot Lane and Leadenhall Street, circumnavigating the huge complex of warehouses at Cutler's Gardens, and standing at the feet of bronze statues of key company figures such as Robert Clive and Lord Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington. These walks have been rolling discussions, as well as presentations.
I learn so much that day. Not just facts about the Thames, but a new way of relating to this city. Walking to the Thames along the Fleet offers a particular sense of ‘being in the world’, an ecological view that connects us to a networked environment that is both natural and cultural. Unlike reading a book or watching television, I am walking the river as I find out about it. Ley lines, song lines, story lines, some lines only speak as you walk them. The stories I was told that day are intimately connected with the places in which I first heard them.... These walks - actual and imagined - are storytelling in motion. In some cases, the work takes the form of a narrative unfolding through space, in others the events discovered on the way are enough to create the story. The spatial element of storytelling is stressed in French sociologist Michel de Certeau’s notion of ‘spatial stories’. Stories take place, asserts de Certeau. The ‘spatial story’ is a device that allows connections to be made between people and places. Through the act of walking, these connections are continually made and re-made, physically and conceptually over time and through space. Public concerns and private fantasies, past events and future imaginings are brought into the here and now, into a relationship that is both sequential and simultaneous. Walking is a way of at once discovering and creating the city.
"Imagination is the root of all change" / Jane Rendell
James Marriott (PLATFORM): Increasingly we’ve tried to utilize walking as a means by which other people can also embody the critical process. I think a good example is Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog is about trying to explore the nature of a contemporary corporation. What is this thing? What does it do? What is its impact on the world? How are we already inside it? One of the ways in which the work manifests itself is through a day-long event. People arrive here at ten o’clock in the morning. They view a presentation that explores the various impacts of BP and Shell on ecology, democracy, and justice. We also explore the companies’ structures, and point out how the members of the audience are already members of the structure, even though they may not be part of BP and Shell. Then we go out into the city and walk to buildings for three hours. Through that process, they physically get to see how all these different organizations fit together. Through the traffic and the heat on the soles of their feet, they embody the nature of corporate reality, and I think that’s incredibly important.
"Unravelling the Carbon Web" is a project within PLATFORM's long term initiative, 90% CRUDE. Like all PLATFORM's work it is driven by a commitment to social and ecological justice, and is carried out in an interdisciplinary manner, combining the skills of research and analysis, creative writing and performance, listening and dialogue. For more information about the wide range of other work by PLATFORM please visit the PLATFORM website.
The project works to reduce the environmental and social impacts of oil corporations, to help citizens gain a say in decisions that affect them, and to support the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.
Its aim is that those affected by oil and gas corporations' operations, and civil society as a whole, is democratically empowered to influence, and ultimately transform, those corporations.
Its approach centres on the 'Carbon Web', the complex network of institutions that make up the oil and gas industry, and the role each institution may play in activities that adversely effect people and the environment.
The 'Unravelling the Carbon Web'project began in March 2000, although its roots lie in the Crude Operators conference - a gathering to understand and challenge the oil industry - organised by PLATFORM and Corporate Watch in May 1997.
Museum of the Corporation
The Museum of the Corporation is a proposal for:
* an open space where people can debate one of today's most powerful influences on social and ecological justice in daily life and global politics, the transnational corporation
* a space where people from different sectors and interest-groups, including business, can access new ideas and rigorous information/analysis
* a reflective, critical and cultural space
* a dynamic space where people can meet each other in a spirit of mutual education and urgent ethical debate
* a space for the unexpected, using creative and art techniques to enable new thinking and new conversations
Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa
Remember Saro-Wiwa is a coalition of UK-based organisations and individuals encompassing the arts and literature, human rights and environmental and development issues.
On November 10th 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni colleagues were executed by the Nigerian state for campaigning against the devastation of the Niger Delta by oil companies, especially Shell and Chevron.
John Berger states that “the historic role of capitalism is to destroy history - to sever any link with the past and orientate all effort and imagination to that which is about to occur.”
The oil corporations would like nothing better than to have Ken Saro-Wiwa’s name erased from the collective memory, the debate to “move on”. But, through the Living Memorial, and numerous associated initiatives, the reverse is happening - the powerful message of the Ogoni Nine is now reaching a new generation.
"A Conversation with Platform: The Political is Personal" / Terri Cohn
Platform @ CIVICCentre
Platform @ The Monongahela Conference on Post Industrial Community Development
Platform @ The Ashden Directory