A Building That Throws Up,
(The recital of the four Woozies) (2024)

A building that throws up (The recital of the four Woozies), 2024. Mixed fabrics, pulley system, rope; 11,5m x 1,5m

The incredible Natasha Brown and I present to you a series of backdrops for the recital of the four Woozies: “A Building That Throws Up,” a play about places that depart, disappear, or flee.

With this project, we sought to elaborate on the mixed feelings associated with our friends leaving London and the constant emotional and economic precarity of staying in this city. London is an ever-changing chessboard, where people and places are constantly shifting in and out, up and down. Too often, the city engages in an unsustainable dance where fancy skyscrapers chase dirty council houses, and where stories and people disappear in sterile zones.

Double sided A4 Flyer.

We imagined flipping the narrative, considering how places would feel about these radical displacements. Would they feel motion-sick? How would they feel about the mould in their houses? How would they feel about an imposed new commercial identity? Would they feel woozy?

Inspired by the boroughs of London where we lived and Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,"  we wrote whimsical stories about these places leaving because they were thirsty, overwhelmed, sick, ashamed, and lost (stories below). We designed four backdrops to represent each area, hanging them on a pulley system that visitors can move to make space for a recital.

Notes on “The Artwork that Left Stratford”:

On Sunday, June 16, 2024, we decided to alter our artwork from the exhibition “Nectar” at 50 Celebration Street in Stratford, hosted by Hypha Studios. Hypha is an art charity in London that “acts as a mediator between landowners and artists matching creatives with empty spaces & regenerating the high street with cultural hubs & events for local communities.”1

After the opening, we discovered the exhibition space had partnered with Get Living London, a major rental management company involved in East London’s regeneration. This revelation made us rethink our project’s context within Stratford and Newham’s history of regeneration. We began to feel that our work, initially intended to reflect on these processes, was inadvertently contributing to the area's gentrification through art-washing practices. We became concerned that Get Living was leveraging artists to enhance the area's appeal.

Feeling the sweaty awkwardness of having made a big mistake, we began researching the area’s history and context. Natasha and I had extensive discussions about the role of artists in regeneration and gentrification. As non-residents of East London, we recognised we were not positioned to speak on behalf of the local community, but we still wanted to respond to this situation. Ultimately, we decided to remove our 4 panels from the show, leaving just the pulley system and a poster attached to a wall. On this poster, in the same language as our original work, we wrote a new story about the artwork itself leaving Stratford after discovering the partnership with the rental management company.

1 Hypha Studios.https://hyphastudios.com/ (Accessed: 29 June 2024).

The Artwork that Left Stratford, 2024. Pulley system, rope, A4 Flyer; 11,5m x 1,5m

The Green A4 that was Evicted, 2024. A4 Flyer

Notes on “The Green A4 that was Evicted”:

We made the decision to alter the artwork, without informing the other artists or curators, fully aware it might cause tension. We believed in asking for forgiveness, not permission. Our intentions were driven by a desire to confront the ethical implications of our work within the broader context of the exhibition space.

Immediately after we attached the poster, we informed the collective and proposed an informal panel discussion. The group chose not to engage with us directly. Some artists were worried that if the CEO of Hypha read the poem about the artwork leaving Stratford, it could negatively impact future opportunities for the collective to work with Hypha. They requested that we remove the work quietly and not post about it on social media.

The collective eventually urged us to remove the work entirely to avoid negative repercussions with Hypha. The main objections raised by the group were:

  • How everything was happening because we agreed to participate in the show without researching Hypha’s partnerships first, “which is quite unprofessional”.
  • The work was altered without communicating with the rest of the group beforehand and getting their agreement before taking action.

This experience left us demoralised, with many unanswered questions. It highlighted the difficulties of dealing with ethical problems that can come up in artistic collaborations. It revealed the rigid dynamics of an emerging art scene, where artists sometimes claim the need to be "professional" as an excuse to adopt business-like practices. In this environment, consent can paradoxically lead to censorship, rather than encouraging critical self-reflection among the artists.