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.

Keys instal­la­tion: Ahmed Farooqui

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

Poster for 36 Ashley Road


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.

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