Art of living in flatland
Durban-based Greg Streak is one of several artists involved in an intriguing residency programme in the city of Liverpool during April. Situated in the unlikely arena of a 22-storey block of flats shortly to be demolished, the project asks artists to respond to the lives and spaces of people who have lived in the block over the past 30 years or so.
Involving artists from both Britain and abroad, 'Further' follows on from 'Up in the Air', an initiative by Leo Fitzmaurice and Neville Gabie to allow contemporary art to engage with social conditions in Liverpool. Gabie, sadly missed as an exhibitor in Cape Town's Month of Photography this year because of a lack of expected funding, has long had connections with South Africa. Some years ago he spent time at Technikon Natal as an exchange lecturer in the same sculpture department where Streak was a student.
'Further' involves three one-month residency periods over the next 18 months, each with open studios and culminating in a final exhibition and publication. Phase one is currently in operation with artists living in the soon-to-be-demolished blocks and it is this part of the project that Streak is involved in. The artists' work will be available for public scrutiny when studios open on April 28 and 29.
Streak is based in Linosa Close, Sheil Park, and his work focuses on an interest in spaces - both physical/architectural and internal/psychological spaces. For him the intersection of the two is the catalyst for probing the realms of private and public, internal and external, micro and macro worlds. He speaks of his work there:
"What I found quite interesting is the sense of invasion as one moves through some of the abandoned apartments which are potential studios or sites for work now to be made. In Linosa Close - the apartment block in which we work - of the approximately 172 flats, only 63 are still inhabited. For me it was quite strange walking through some of these apartments that are now vacated, yet still have traces of the history of the inhabitant.
"The work I am in the process of making engages the idea of psychological space. I have taken an apartment on the 12th floor (very strange space - dirty, graffiti on the walls, used needles and bottles of stuff all over) and sectioned it off. As you open the front door and enter the space, it is blocked off by a false wall that I have built.
"This wall and the new entrance hall will be wallpapered, fitted with a dado rail and skirting, and painted. In front of the false wall is a brass/glass viewer (similar to the security viewers we have at home that allow you to see who is at the door). It plays on those (the door to the apartment actually has one!) but is in fact the lens of a telescope. Inside the apartment I have constructed a mirror with a base which sits on the window ledge at an approximately 45° angle and refracts the view of four power-generating windmills on the coast some miles away. The telescope will be focused into the mirror and will reflect this image.
"My concerns are numerous. Viewers have an expectation of the internal space of the flat before entering because they would have been into several prior to entering this one. I wanted them to enter the apartment and then be closed off from the apartment. There is a 'non-delivery' in denying the expected internal space but also a 'delivery' as the space now becomes psychological space: you have to imagine the interior - is it like some of the others you have been into, or maybe it has been shut off for other reasons? The viewing hole might show some of the interior space - but no, the seven metres between the false wall and end of the apartment are traversed by the telescope that accesses not the inside but the outside. Not what lies directly outside the apartment either, but instead a vignette some five kilometres away on the coast literally at right angles from the direction in which you are looking."
Other international artists involved in the project include Stefan Gec, who will construct a sound piece in one of the flats within the tower block. Lothar Gotz will honour one of the flats by turning it into a painting to live in, a showroom flat of modernity and colour with a view. David Mabb presents two works: The Linosa Close Gallery, a temporary gallery in which a collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations by residents of Linosa will be exhibited; and Archive, a video that re-presents archival photographs of Liverpool from the 1950s and 1960s. Paul Rooney will collaborate with people from Linosa Close in the writing and singing of songs and Elizabeth Wright, working directly with the redevelopment archive, statistics and architectural drawings, is reproducing revised plans and models remodelling the building to form a hybrid development as an alternative to high or low-rise living.
'Further' is hosted by Liverpool Hat (LHAT) with the support of the residents of the area and is managed on site by CADT. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.upintheair.org.uk.