ORGAN THING: Frieze week kicks off with a search for the positives at the Sluice Biennial…


Sluice Biennial, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Frieze week is upon us once more, a whole week of London art fairs and events topped by the giant Frieze Art Fair while a whole load of shows, openings, galleries and such jousting for our attention. We’ve already been left feeling underwhelmed by the disengagement of Sluice Biennial and their rather questionable (some might say arrogant) takeover of those railway arches in Hackney, we’ve already seen the collective smiling faces of the self-appointed London art media posting selfie after selfie from the pre Frieze parties, you’d think art only happens for one week of the year. yes indeed fight fans, Frieze week is upon us again, a wise move might be to get the hell out-of-town for seven days and avoid the whole circus, but then underneath it all we hold out hope for good art, we hold out hope for excitement and fresh thought, we hope for paint and canvas and performance and installation, we hope for engagement, we really really want to see some good art, we want a positive exciting,   let’s stick around and cut through the bullshit, let’s search our and enjoy the positives of Frieze Week and London…


Sluice Biennial, Railway arches, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Hard to really enjoy the positives of the 2017 Sluice Biennial – this year the event is spread over three sites in the conflicted area of Hackney Central where the community around the Narrow Way are trying to hold back the tide of gentrification and hold on to their identity, to their shops, cafes, workspaces and livelihoods  as rents fly up and developers and gentrifyers push the locals out. Once again things don’t appear to be being done the right way in terms of those who have lived and worked in this area for years when no one else wanted to.

Sluice is partly housed in a whole row of freshly painted railway arches (buffed and freshly painted black), railway arches recently cleansed of the life and soul of Hackney, of the dirt of the car workshops and taxi garages, cleansed to make way for who knows what? A cynic might wonder how they all became conveniently empty just in time for Sluice to take place? There they are, all painted matt black, cleaned up, buffed, all cleared out and cleaned up just in time to house part of this year’s Sluice Biennial art festival….


Sluice Biennial, Railway arches, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Surely art needs to engage with communities rather  than appear to replace them? There’s still oil-stained calendars, business cards and work schedules up on the walls inside the recently emptied railway arches that are now being used as temporary art galleries, something feels slightly wrong here, those caves of London are important, ask Ian Sinclair.


Sara Berman, Sluice Biennial, Morning Lane, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Not that any locals are that aware of Sluice Biennial, absolutely no signage or local publicity, no real attempt to inform or engage with the people of Hackney (or indeed the artists of the immediate area). The whole thing feels a little disengaged, slightly aloof and dare we say, in terms of the event itself  a little underwhelming..

As for the actual art, well the hangs are all over the place, cluttered here, sparse over there, it doesn’t feel like a radical set of hangs, more a haphazard set of semi-disasters, and there’s really not many visitors here for prime time Sunday afternoon half way through the four-day event, some of the contributing gallery people who’ve come from afar don’t appear to be that happy with the situation. Surely an event like this should be alive with energy and excitement, with cutting-edge art presented in an engaging exciting dynamic way? What a contrast after last week’s visit to the very engaging Folkestone Triennial and everything happening with the Fringe there in the Kentish town, surely it isn;t that difficult t omake an event like this feel engaging and inviting?


Sluice Biennial, Morning Lane, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Oh look, the policy on these pages is to only really cover things when we have something positive to say, only when we’re engaged and excited about the art we’re covering. True there’s one or two pieces in here that catch the eye, Sara Berman‘s “in There Somewhere” painting certainly stands out, Diego Gomez has some interesting work on the walls, there;s one or two interesting (not very clearly labeled) paintings in the PIY Paintlounge, rather telling that the piece of graff that’s survived the cleanse at the end of the now very black arches kind of stands out a makes a little bit of a point in terms of the art to be found, as does the four letter work followed by an “off” scrawled in spray paint on the wall opposite the arches (possibly from one of the vacating now unemployed car mechanics?). The Post Student Art School installation in one of the arches as a touch of stylish wit, although the whole event does have the hint of art student about it. The artists on the whole don’t seem that bothered about the former occupants of the arches whe nquestioned about it (really don’t think I would have wanted ot hang a piece of art in here under the circunstances). There’s a whole load of performance artists (we assume that’s what they are) wandering around dressed in neon pink, not sure what they’re doing?


Sluice Biennial, Railway arches, Hackney, East London, October 2017 – one of the better pieces

The first space of three at the top end of Mare Street is dedicated to photography, in all honesty nothing that you can’t see on your Instagram feed on any given day, the railway arches further up the street have been taken over by various galleries and, well…. um…. oh look the Frieze week is underway, Sluice has kind of kicked it all off, we’re not feeling that impressed, there’s a photo or two down there, a flavour of what was to be found in the arches and such, one or two pieces stood out, one or two things that might develop and one or two artists to keep an eye out for but nothing really that exciting, maybe it all looked a lot more interesting on the website before hand? Maybe if as much effort had gone in to the actual event as the effort that went into the website  Maybe the attitude annoyed too much to allow us to engage and enjoy?

Surely art needs to understand and engage with the community a little more than this event did? Indeed maybe if they’d engage with those of us who take an interest and want to go explore te art and the event (the signposting really was a joke, we’d almost certainly have not known about the third space on Morning Lane if we hadn’t met a couple of people who had just discovered it temselves, it kind of needed a little more than a small scrap of paper taped to the wall at small dog’s eye-level?


Sluice Biennial, Railway arches, Hackney, East London, October 2017

Anyway, here’s the photos, I can’t say I’m a fan of empty galleries with little more than a video running on TV screen on the floor in the corner (dog’s eye-level again), putting a video monitor on te floor might have been radical first time around but that was back in the last century, I can’t say we’re feeling that impressed with any of Sluice save for one or two paintings and, well, here you go, some photos, we’ll leave it with you and go find out more about who Sara Berman is, kind of expected a lot lot more than what we got from Sluice – there was one or two  paintings, one or two bits of free-standing installation, the pile in the corner against the bare brickwork and such but really the Sluice Biennial didn;t impress us (or indeed our fellow Hackney residents) that much, we’ll politely leave you with a photo or two and quietly say we expected far more than we got for our five minute walk up to the rather hidden rather underwhelming event, it could have been so so much more, it could have engaged, it could had addressed those caves, surely it could have been a lot more than just a stand out painting or two… (sw)

Click on an image to enlarge it or to run the fractured slide show




5 thoughts on “ORGAN THING: Frieze week kicks off with a search for the positives at the Sluice Biennial…

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