We talked a little about how the show came about and they told me that the intention for WITH(OUT) had been to transform what is usually a visiting artist guest house into a temporary gallery space for the duration of the exhibition after which it would revert to being a guest house. This ultimately meant that the space could not be completely cleared. Certain items necessary for the space to function beyond the exhibition had to remain. The result is a symbiosis between space and content that gives perfect definition to the theme of the show.
As you walk into the space at Tressilian Road in Brockley there is an initial sense of it being an ordinary room. Quickly however the arrangement of the art takes over. Photographs, postcards, open suitcases, framed pictures on the floor, the urgent flickering of a TV screen high in a corner and a long monochrome wall chart of artist’s names.
Open glass doors give you a glimpse into the bedroom and there is a palpable sense of something being in there that draws you straight to that room.
What you find is an entire psychodrama staged brilliantly and disturbingly from a wardrobe and some shelving in the installation work by Italian duo Penzo+Fiore. Their arrangement of colours and objects juxtapose seamlessly both thematically and visually with Helen Omand’s stark white toy cradles.
Gloria Houng’s atmospheric photographs suggest the emptiness of one too many generic hotel experiences but also create a room within the room in which you are standing - a bed above a bed, curtains beside the curtains. On the floor by the radiator like a guest’s forgotten item is one of Howard Hardiman’s Jigsaw pieces.
This is not a bedroom with some art in it but an entire environment that in some respects encapsulates the often jagged experience of being alone in a strange place. The external environment is different but the internal environment in all its complexity remains. Spending time in this room bombards you with both emotional challenges and interpretative possibilities. There is a deep sense of anxiety, fear and loss that characterises the impulse in many to start moving in the first place. However there is also a sense of resolution and clarity about the parameters of this reality and how it can be processed.
When stepping back into the relative calm and normality of the social space of the other room, there is a definite sense of relief. There is also a sense of fun. You can mark your height on the haphazard wall chart of artists and others created by Daniel Wallis. You can marvel at Nina Feldman's unique postcards and a fridge door covered with satellite images of 'Victoria Roads' she has visited in all commonwealth countries.
Tucked away in corners you spy more of Howard Hardiman’s jigsaw works and the colourful splash of one of the suitcases. There is the quiet counterpoint and sublime stillness of Bianca Brunner’s photographs and you are left wondering how John Clang has managed to give his own shadow such a big personality. And as for that urgently flickering screen? There is a whole collection of videos featuring works by Yingmei Duan, The Light Surgeons, Lucia Lopez and Clemens von Wedenmayer. (CLICK LINK FOR INFO AND ONLINE SCREENINGS)
Even all this is nowhere near the entirety of the show. The opening night featured a performance piece called Tides by Penzo+Fiore. The opening weekend featured Gourmandizing, a kind of site-specific food and storytelling extravaganza. On December 5th, Pablo Anton will arrive at Brockspace to perform and install his work in the bathroom and there will be a workshop with Daniel Wallis exploring responses to the exhibition at the weekend.
To assemble all this work in a temporary domestic space plus a rich and varied itinerary of video screenings, performance, workshops and gourmet food on their first ever collectively curated project is really quite a phenomenal achievement. And I haven't even mentioned the amazing, newspaper-style catalogue with artist interviews, images, curatorial essays, the exhibition programme…… nor Kate Munro's delight that you find in the garden on the way out….