At 26 Caledonian Road, N1 London, there was once a deli. There will be a deli again. In the meantime, there is space to be inhabited. Abandoned, to be reclaimed, a vessel for dreams, projections and plans of MAKING A HOME.
What makes a house a home? How can we identify ourselves in a space which is not our own, only a temporary roof, yet so full of what we used to be?
A group of artists, curated by Tatiana Delaunay and myself, took over Geddes Gallery with their own notions of the passage of time, formations of memory, and the trauma of renting on November 20th, 2015. We were questioning the relationship between a space and its inhabitants in the urban context, and more particularly in London metropolis, constantly changing.
For this exhibition, I created a choreographic/ performative piece called ‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’. It was inspired by the Happening instructions developed in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, for example by Wolf Vostell or Allan Kaprow, and by Charlotte Spencer’s ‘Walking Stories’ and the exercise we devised on the Next Choreography programme in response to her piece (see Maria’s post below!)
Throughout the day, we gave out sheets of paper with these ‘instructions’ to the visitors of the gallery; it was intended to inspire them to go on a treasure hunt of sorts, look in places and corners of the rooms that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and discover new ideas about what it means to feel ‘at home’ in a space.
The Geddes gallery isn’t really a gallery. Not in the White Cube sense, anyway. It is an old house on the corner of Caledonian Road and Keystone Crescent, consisting of an eclectic collection of rooms: There is the entrance area, what used to be the storefront, lined with rows and rows of white shelves that formerly held an abundance of Italian treats; the back rooms on the ground floor, grimy, dim and somehow otherworldly, mainly used for storage in deli times; narrow, fragile staircases; a kitchen space with once-white tiles which, for some unapparent reason, has a shower crammed into one of its corners; two dilapidated bedrooms with flowery wallpaper and rock hard beds.
When the shop owner retired after more than 40 years last summer, an array of sculptures and other artwork was found in the basement of 26 Caledonian Road – they belonged to artist Jim Geddes, a neighbour who had asked for them to be kept there. It was then decided that his art should be exhibited – and then curator Cornelia Marland got in touch with the landlord to arrange a series of exhibitions that will continue until March 2016, when the house will be renovated and become a deli once more.
Currently, though, this peculiar place, five minutes from busy and booming Kings Cross station, feels like a time capsule; when stumbled upon, it is an entirely unexpected and charming surprise.
With ‘instructions’ I wanted to recreate this sense of discovery and ambiguity for our audience. Tying into that agenda, our artists created installations and immersive spaces throughout the house, blurring the lines between fact and fiction by making it unclear what had been found and left in the rooms and what had been placed there by them. The instructions laid out for the visitor – ‘performers’ did not need to be followed step by step, or be taken literally at all – this was entirely up to them to decide. Ultimately, some of our visitors did spend many minutes going through every single of the suggested motions, understanding them as prescriptive; others seemed to think it was just a nice piece of writing, not for them to act upon; and then for some, it may have sparked one or two new ideas and helped them connect to the building.
It is worth mentioning that we also used ‘instructions’ as an input for improvisation when we devised the performances, the so-called ‘acts of inhabiting’, that took place during the evening on November 20th.
Making this piece was part of my current choreographic research: I am interested in daily bodily habits and our ways of navigating familiar and unknown architectures; I am experimenting with ways of documenting our quotidian ways of moving, for example by tracing, drawing maps, or using strategies of intervening/ interrupting habitual movements. The question of what happens when choreographer/ artist and audience enter into co-authorship of a piece is very interesting to me as well.