Waiting to Exhale: a creative exploration in response to Brexit
A suburban house turned into an experimental and beautiful space for the creation of project-based art, this is the essence of Space 36, in Finsbury Park, north London.
In 2016, the owners of the house, Ahmed Farooqui and Alan Swann, held an exhibition which they chose to be part of Crouch End Festival in June. The exhibition was called The Secret Life of No:36 – an imaginative project focusing around the fabric of the house itself, its history, its residents, featuring ideas and artwork both factual and fanciful. And as a visitor to the exhibition, Ahmed and Alan welcomed you into their home as if you were a guest, leaving you to wander and enjoy the exhibits in the house – and sit and enjoy the garden with a cup of tea and cake. If there was one complaint, it was that the exhibition was on for such a short time, although its ephemeral nature was a deliberate and important part of the construct. View the project here.
As the owners always intended the house to be used as an occasional arts space, another show was planned for 2017. Ahmed and Alan again talked to artists and selected a group to work together for a four-month residency, with the objective to, as in 2016, open the house to visitors over the two festival weekends in June. Ahmed was interested in artistic expression in response to Brexit, and so came about this year’s theme: Waiting to Exhale.
The idea was for a group of resident and EU artists to explore how their idea of home and belonging has been affected by this momentous decision. Before Christmas, Ahmed first talked to artists about the idea, and the first meeting happened in January. Since then, there have been meetings every two weeks or so, these discussions helping the artists clarify their ideas and artistic response to Brexit. Creation of the artworks has intensified over the last couple of weeks (May/early June).
Ahmed explains that this year, the exhibition will be even more ambitious: 17 sculptures, sound and light installations, interactive artworks and performances filling a large portion of the house and garden. The exhibits include a diver positioned 30 feet from the ground, a meditation experience with a twist, an unstable tower in the living room, and a video featuring bittersweet gluttony.
This project is one of three on a theme that Ahmed is involved with: coming up is an exhibition called The Republic of Brexitopia, to take place in September. This is a collaboration with a group of artists and will be based at Espacio Gallery in Shoreditch. The third piece is still in its infancy and will be about sanctuary, involving artists who came to the UK looking for a place of safety. It will be exhibited in a sacred building associated with the traditional notion of sanctuary, to take place in early 2018.
The Secret Life of No.36 was very much about house and home, albeit in a positive way. This same subject matter – home and offering welcome, but in a very different and far more unsettling context – is to be explored in Waiting to Exhale.
Waiting to Exhale is part of the Crouch End Festival
at Space 36, 36 Ashley Road, N19 3AF
Photo (top): Ahmed on the steps of the house with the artists.