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news | ANARCH

December 12th, 2013

I went to meet Nissa at her home, half way between Bethnal Green Station and Broadway Market.

From the outside Nissa’s place appears vacant, a boarded up shop on an empty street. Inside it’s cosy; exposed floorboards and natural light, burnt out fireplace, miniature Victorian bathtub and black coffee.

I learn that the dwelling, in its inhabitance of an unexpected space, resoundingly echoes the artist’s life experience.

Nissa has quietly rejected both the definition, and the institutions that define, the artist. The stark difference between her and her abode is that she is very much visible, her opinions amplified by her performances that explore and question existing structures and social expectations. She spontaneously delivers the unexpected.

In turn, Nissa’s life experience emulates the spirit we hope to release at Colony. It’s tricky to describe, Attlee depicts it, ‘animating downtown New York in the 70s’. It’s Matta-Clark’s spirit; of rebellion, freedom of the individual, and … doing things a little differently than the norm.

Where are you from?

I was born in a place called Medicine Hat, Alberta, the great wide open, as people call it. I feel a deep connection with this landscape. My mother is a painter from Yamanashi, Japan, where my parents first met. My father was researching ceramics there. He went in search of the great potter Shoji Hamada. Hamada died the same month he arrived. They moved to Canada shortly after. I visited Japan regularly as a child. My earliest memory is the smell of sulphur from the hot springs in Hakone where we spent our summers. I feel at home there, amongst the ancient stone and forest.

How did you wind up here?

My grandfather was born in Birmingham, but the thought of moving to England never crossed my mind. Alberta has the largest British army-training unit. This always repelled me. After art school in Montreal, I immediately went to Japan to live with my grandparents. During this time I started training with Dance Resources on Earth (a dance organisation led by the dancer Min Tanaka). I came from a predominantly sculpture-based approach. This time marked a significant shift to focus purely on my body, through dance and farming. Everything was stripped away. During the summers a festival called Dance Hakushu took place in the village, attended by Esoteric folk dancers from Iwate Prefecture, Kutiyattum dance-theatre, Gamelan from Bali and contemporary dancers from Russia and Hungary. It was a hub for movement in every sense. These experiences stirred a desire to study theatre. Someone told me about RADA. I applied, got in, and moved to London. The school did not braid with my intentions, to say the least. So I dropped out before the first year was over and returned to the farm in Hakushu. Yet thoughts of London remained with me. I felt a pull back to the city and applied to study a master’s degree at Goldsmiths, in Performance. I thought it would only be for a year, and now, it’s been five. My grandfather says I always follow the wind, there’s a storm brewing here…

Your performances are intense, there is an element of darkness there…

I’ve always been drawn to black, the darkness, as a surface for light to expand. A few people have witnessed my performances and are like, it’s so sad. These images of darkness symbolise beauty, and yes, sadness of the beautiful. However, there is also a fine line of humour. A playful myriad of interconnected ideas… layer upon layer, creating work that is beyond just one signature.

For Colony, Nissa is collaborating with Lise Hovesen and Javier Rodriguez, of Standart Thinking. Standart Thinking promotes practical knowledge and understanding of a range of agricultural and societal issues, through multi-layered critique and artistic expression.

Did your farming experience in Japan unite you with Standart?

We are a community of friends that believe that the simplistic rural-urban dichotomy no longer works. We tend to work on similar planes, forming a better relationship with the environment. Standart are fusing their artistic expression, daily living and reverence to the natural world in a manner I deeply respect.

What do you and Standart have planned for Colony?

They are bringing in a load of the Queen’s horse shit. And I am going to roll in it (laughs). One element of London that has really moved me is that of the urban fox, living amongst the human population. They are hugely significant, like messengers. On the evening of the sixteenth I will hold a workshop. During the workshop, we’ll hit the streets and venture out in search of the fox. The performance on the following night will be informed by our observations. During our first discussion about Colony, Lise had a flash back to her childhood, of going into a barn and finding all these dead foxes. So, we tracked them down. Lise and I are going to go to Norfolk to collect them. And there will be fox fire …

A foxy concoction Nissa delighted in demonstrating…

What are you looking forward to during Colony?

Fritz Stolberg and Kohhei Matsuda. They have a powerful connection. They finely detail image and sound, opening and tuning their instincts. Nothing ever feels fixed with them.

Could Colony roam further a field?

Of course. Jude Bennett is bringing together a diverse group, engaging an autonomous audience. Many of the conversations I am having right now are with artists who have made the decision to leave the city and move to the countryside, retreating to the land. Bringing these ideas back to the centre of London is important. It’s vital to have these conversations within the urban, as ultimately there is no separation…

Nissa Nishikawa and Standart Thinking present The Familiar Earth.

Colony, 14 Warren St, Tuesday 17th of December, 8pm.

Full event information.

 


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December 11th, 2013

Guests undertook a culinary journey through dinner the wrong way round, starting with coffee (by Black Sheep Coffee) and after eights, followed by dessert and cheese (by Les Greedy Couchons), main course (by That Hungry Chef) a starter (by POD Food) and finished off with an apéritif Otijom (by ShotTails) and peanuts.

By Alice Ladenburg, Friday 6th December, Colony, 14 Warren St, Fitzrovia.

What else is happening?

Photography by David Fernandez Perez.

 


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December 6th, 2013

An interplanetary experience, certainly other worldly, Call and Response Super Divinital Mega Structure (official title) came and was.

By Phill Wilson-Perkin & Samantha Taylor, Thursday 5th December, Colony, 14 Warren St, Fitzrovia.

What else is happening?

 


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December 4th, 2013

I grab five minutes with ATC the night before Colony opens.

The vacant showroom is well lit on a dark street in central Fitzrovia. Andrew’s team have been working flat out, and it looks like they will be here all night. We’re ankle deep in wood shavings, with timber beams exploding through the floor, forming platforms to perch, converse, and encounter all manor of artistic expression over the next sixteen days.

It’s not ready, but we all know it will be. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Shangri La is built in thirty.

How did you get here?

I studied Interior Architecture at Brighton. I designed an incredibly ugly car park in Ringwood. I decided architecture was bullshit. So I left and did loads of random stuff before studying an MA in Fine Art.

A bit like the shining, I was the only student on the course and the only one in the building. I started taking the building apart. The tutors would leave on Tuesday, come back the following week, and I would have taken out a door or a wall.

Now, I practice at a very fast pace, using architecture as a medium rather than a plan. I’m an an-architect. I’m fighting against architecture, but using it in a good way. It’s about making people realise what’s possible.

Matta-Clark is a huge influence?

I first came across him in 2001. I was blown away.

And recently talking with Attlee about what Matta-Clark was working on before he died, floating buildings and huge air balloons… having died so young there is a huge gap. His sense of optimism, that anything is possible, I’m trying to take this conversation forward in my own style.

Who else influences you?

From my education at Brighton, Cedrick Price, an architect obsessed with building a building that didn’t really function. He is known for The Aviary at London Zoo. This thing… a really big net, with a huge purpose.

The Aviary, London Zoo.

And Diller and Scofidio, who built a cloud. You put on your rain coat, walk out onto a lake, it sucks the lake up and squirts it out, you’re in this incredible environment.

Blur Building, Switzerland.

We tend to get stuck in boxes, of what buildings should be. It’s time to take it further. I’m trying to tease art out of architecture.

Ambitious builds, huge scale, is that where you’re headed?

Scale is a tricky question, core to all projects should be how people respond. With Glastonbury, it was great to see how people interact with sheet flames shooting over their heads. With Colony, in one sense it’s a functional space, with tables and a bar. In another sense it’s a platform for people to come in and do whatever they want.

What is happening at Colony?

There is so much glass frontage here, people are constantly knocking on the door, asking what’s going on. We’ve got a musical opening tomorrow night, a Rhys Chatham piece I’m really excited about. We’ve got dinner parties planned. We’ve got artists who are growing rubber trees, a delivery of five tonnes of horse manure. We’ve torn a huge hole in the floor…

What do you hope to achieve here?

For everyone who comes in to push their practice a little further. Artists are notorious for not being able to talk about what they do, and this can only come through conversation. If these conversations happen here, it would be brilliant, I would love that.

Andrew T Cross, a new commission, 4 – 20 December, Colony, 14 Warren St.

Words, Nancy Benson.


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November 29th, 2013

London has changed immeasurably as a city in which to make art over the past half century. Home to huge art fairs, monumental public galleries, a central node in an international network of dealers, collectors and investors, its art schools now teach business skills, stoking the expectation among their graduates that creativity is the key to the untold wealth they see other artists bestowed with.

There is a down side to all this art-world super-connectivity: the city has become an impossibly expensive and tightly monitored place in which to live and work. Artists, colonisers of the margins in search of cheap studio space and accommodation, acting as a vanguard army with the ground-troops of gentrification following in their wake, have played their part in the process of the city’s hollowing out: its inevitable progress towards becoming impossible to live and work in for any except the super-rich.

This exhibition, through its focus on the artist Gordon Matta-Clark, evokes a time when the urban landscape – in his case, that of downtown New York – offered different opportunities. When vast abandoned warehouse spaces could be broken into and sliced up, reconfigured, without anyone noticing. When performances could be staged on rooftops, exhibitions in dumpsters on the street and inaccessible slivers of land in the city grid bought for a few dollars each to become purposefully purposeless artworks. A time, above all, when a community of artists lived and worked in close proximity; a community apparently not motivated primarily by a desire for success in commercial terms, as no such success was yet on offer for the kind of work they made. As open to experiments in living as they were in art, they formed the main audience for each other’s sketchily documented shows.

This era – the 1970s – lies beyond the reach of the internet and is thus firmly located in the realm of myth, regained only through increasingly inconsistent and contradictory human memories. We have one record, though: a record that makes no attempt to be historically accurate, complete, logical or even grammatical – the writings of Gordon Matta-Clark, a motley collection assembled after his death in 1978 at the age of 35, a mere nine years into his career as an artist. It includes note cards, recording irreverent thoughts and passing observations in his trademark unpunctuated capitals; letters to friends and other artists; humorous provocations; and proposals to arts bodies and businesses, recording the relentless attempts at hustling funds and opportunities, vital activities to an artist existing largely outside the gallery system.

Matta-Clark studied architecture and his writing often reflects on what he saw as its problems and limitations. A possible alternative approach is hinted at and alluded to, usually referred to by the term ‘Anarchitecture’. This first emerged as the name for a loose grouping of artists who would meet to drink, kick around ideas and socialise together, with the vague ambition of working towards an exhibition. A single group show resulted, in an artist-run space in SoHo, the exact content of which is still debated. For Matta-Clark, the idea outlived the exhibition. In his writings it crops up as an evolving concept of a different kind of architectural programme that he defined as ‘A SEARCH FOR QUALITIES BEYOND THE RULE A CLOSER AWARENESS OF ALL THE SENSES WITH LITTLE FAITH IN THE EFFICIENCY ARMY OF PROBLEM SOLVING’. It might include portable or wearable architecture, architecture created from refuse left on the street, edible buildings or floating platforms kept aloft by hot air discharged from the city.

His early death meant few of these ideas made it beyond the page; it is impossible to know how serious he was about many of them – yet the term Anarchitecture lives on, recycled and reinterpreted again and again. Such appropriations, re-imaginings and even misunderstandings have guaranteed its longevity as a creative stimulus, an energy from the past readapted and rechanneled for the present day.

Andrew T Cross, the artist responsible for the large structure that permeates the space of this exhibition, also studied architecture. Like Matta-Clark, he found its limitations impossibly constricting. The guerrilla nature of the American artist’s practice, and the two forces held in check in the word Anarchitecure – order and disorder, discipline and chaos, the Apollonian and the Dionysian — offered a way forward. ‘I never put planning applications in’, Cross told me when we met to talk about his work. ‘I never work within the constructs with which the built environment is regulated. I understand if I want to build a crazy extension to the back of someone’s house then I will have to go through those hoops, but one of the mantras that I enjoy and try to live by, which was also one of Matta-Clark’s, is that you need to learn the rules to begin to fuck with the system. Once you have learnt the rules you can then start to play with them. That goes from very basic building skills to planning applications and planning law’. Like Matta-Clark, Cross works in liminal territories, his interventions in existing buildings self-authorised, the structures he creates often temporary, erected for festivals, art or community events.

With the piece he has created in Warren Street, that rises through the floor from the basement to the exhibition space, his aim has been to ‘create a platform that can be inhabited – taking the shell of the building and creating within it another separate structure, which as artists come and go they can do with as they please. I wanted to try and challenge the way people think about how they interact with the space. You can design or build something with a very precise thought in mind, but people are such incredible creatures they’ll do what they want anyway. So it’s building something that in some ways has no real function’.

The question posed by Anarch Gallery and Andrew Cross in this collaboration is whether it is possible to work in something of the same spirit that animated the downtown New York scene in the 1970s, in 21st century London. To operate in the contemporary city requires different strategies. Like Cross, curator Jude Bennet has gained a training in methodologies that she can put to use for her own purposes – in her case, through her employment curating empty shops for a local authority, in a bid to soften the appearance of economic decline on the high street. As a curator she makes temporary interventions into the urban fabric by taking over spaces and then assembling instant communities of artists – in this case the Colony Network – to inhabit them. Fitzrovia was, of course, once a bohemian quarter, named after The Fitzroy Tavern, which, along with other local hostelries such as the Black Horse, The Marquess of Granby and The Wheatsheaf, played host to a clientele that included Dylan Thomas, Francis Bacon, Jacob Epstein, George Orwell, Julian Maclaren-Ross and Colin MacInness.

For the period Colony has come to roost in Warren Street it is hoped some of that spirit can be released once more among its quiet streets and exclusive Georgian squares. The space Anarch Gallery and Andrew Cross have created will be the launch pad for all kinds of residencies, artworks and events over the course of the coming weeks. Combining the opposing energies contained within the word Anarchitecture is like splitting the atom, lighting a fuse.

We can only wait to see the result.

James Attlee


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October 23rd, 2013

to keep up with what’s next.

info@anarch.co.uk

See you VERY soon….


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Anarch
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