What a very human building and a very very human show, there’s a real sense of the lives once lived in those photographs of the old classrooms, a feel for the laughter that once echoed in those images of the space lived in by the Guardians. the lives lived by the kids, the teachers and then finally the eight guardians documented here in the almost empty and soon to be torn down (now sadly gone) buildings and especially, the lives in the found objects left after the school had closed – those dogs, how brilliant are those three little dogs?
“Enter HUMAN is proud to present ‘Guardians: the school we lived in’ an exhibition that documents the last hurrah of a disused school in Hackney Downs, in which its final earthly purpose was to be a home to nine property guardians”.
This is an excellent show, something a little different and a brave show for the Dalston’s BSMT Space gallery to host – now this is real urban art. Mostly photographs, a simple uncluttered show, there’s something delightful about it, but more than that this is an important show. An important show on several levels, this is a show about community, about people, about the group of “guardians” themselves, about the school, the sense of place, a building built with great heart, something sadly lacking now as the soul of Hackney is torn apart and yet another cold-hearted glass-fronted building goes up in the spaces where lives were once really really lived. A socialist thing, a socialist show, a building built with real thought and an art show put together with real heart, heart in terms of the documenting and appreciating of a space, and heart in terms of the original building – a care in terms of the building and what you’re making that contrasts with the current trend of everything for profit and everyone for themselves, the soulless ego of current architecture contrasted with the warm of this simple breezeblock blue and white building.
“The school, built in 1969, was in use until 2014 for children with learning difficulties. Despite the school’s uncertain future the property guardians remained creative and resilient; repurposing the space and breathing new life into the old classrooms. They lived there for 14 months before the school was demolished in 2016.
The single-storey breeze-block building had a distinctive architecture featuring semi-circle windows in ultramarine blue and all the regular school facilities: a jungle gym, basketball courts, assembly hall. Unique to the school was what the guardians dubbed ‘the emotion room’ a small box room with long-forgotten pictograms of faces on the walls representing different emotions, which will be reproduced in the exhibition”.
The fact that the Enter Human and her friends have taken the time to document the end of the school and their part of it is important, that fact that she’s bothered to put it together in a art gallery mostly know for their urban art shows is important, everyone invoked in this fine show should be applauded. Maybe there could have been more of what the Guardians actually did during their stay, but then this small taste is maybe enough, maybe the portraits and the small pieces of art along with that one powerful shot of the space demolished – and those three dogs, those three dogs say so so much, those three dogs in an art gallery are important. And yes of course there are questions to be asked about the whole guardians situation and people having to pay to look after a building that once would almost certainly have been squatted and maybe be fought for, there are questions about how much these so called guardians are charged to live in these spaces and the whole big issue of rents and homes and greed and security and…. but this is about a space, about people, about the end of a building and the interaction, this is about the heart of it all.
“Essentially an installation of portraits, stills, found objects, and a soundscape, the work aims to immerse you in the property guardian experience and explore themes of uncertainty, change, our inextricable link to the temporary nature of things, and the question of our legacy: what do we want left standing and what do we leave to be destroyed?” The site of the school currently has two towering white cranes lying in wait for the construction of a new school and high-rise apartment block, which will loom over Hackney Downs”.
An excellent show for many reasons, an important show, a show full of heart, art that matters, art that cares. (sw)
BSMT Space is at 5d Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 8BH . Gallery opening hours: Sat 20 – Mon 22 May: 10am – 7pm, Tues 23 May: 10am-6.45pm
Click on an image to enlarge or ot run the splide show and get a small flavour.