Issues around Homelessness and the disappearance of pubs are the subjects of Artcore’s “Re-Imagining the City exhibition which opened last Thursday. 2 young artists, Jess Price, a recent graduate from the University of Derby, and Katharina Fitz from Nottingham were presenting their work from their time in residency at Artcore.
The subjects, in many ways are familiar, and the challenge of a fine art installation is to interpret perspectives and nuances.
Jess’ piece on homelessness spanned the full width of the room. The 300+ pins on the left hand wall represented those people who had attended the Derby Night Shelter over the winter period. Each one was individually connected to, and held taut by, a finely balanced structure weighed down by broken bricks. On the right hand side there was just under a hundred threads which depicted those who had some form of successful outcome.
The whole structure was under tension.
Previously, Jess had performed a different work in the grounds of Artcore. Their car park is a regular safe, and protected space for rough sleepers so that performance had relevance, in context. The film of this work was on display and involved her making a string structure around the area which, at the time, was occupied by a guy who was sleeping in a tent. Whether the string represented a form of cage, or protection, is for the observer to discuss.
Katharina explored the disappearance of pubs, generally, and focussed on some of the icons of public houses – e.g. beer barrels, taps etc. She used moulds, and terracotta to capture the shapes, and to create a “monument” to the institution, the central feature, the barrel, being protected. Her underpinning issue was that the pub ” functions as a social forum where different generations meet and socialise” and if they disappear ” we lose focal points for our communities and places of a unique tradition and character”.
Pubs are finely balanced places, depending on the qualities of the landlord, bar staff, decor, environment, layout, quality of beer, other customers, ambience etc. When working in harmony, then the pub is a “social forum”, but change any of the delicate elements, then it could undermine the very features that make it a success.
Both works explored a single subject of “fragility in the community”. For those who were constantly on the brink of homelessness, then they were always at risk of sleeping on the streets, destitution, mental health problems, and isolation. For those who rely on the pub as a place for socialising and a way of avoiding isolation, then, the creeping disappearance of pubs from the community, creates a fragility in their lives…and when their “safe space” disappears, it is difficult for it to be replaced.
Another observer may arrive at a different interpretation …there are no definitive answers, but hopefully it provokes discussion.
The exhibition continues until 19th August 2018 at Artcore’s premises, 3 Charnwood Street, Derby DE1 2GT