Now in its eighth year, the visual arts festival launches with an intimate installation by Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing, one of the largest video collaborative works ever made.
The group shuffles through a slim opening in the make-shift wooden house structure, curious as to where the loud banging, crunching and the occasional toot of a loud car horn is coming from. Inside, the room is pitch black, illuminated only by a wide flat screen hung on the wall, framed with a pair of crimson red curtains. A window, if you like.
We are at the the University of Brighton Galleries, watching the hypnotic video installation by Gillian Wearing, who is this year’s Brighton HOUSE Festival’s Invited Artist. The film, A Room With Your Views,, co-commissioned by Brighton Festival, is a compilation of short clips of the views from people’s windows from 167 different countries. With each location, the view is at first obscured by a curtain or blind, which is then pulled back to unveil anything from a romantically lit night scene over River Arno in Florence, to the derelict land and corrugated metal roofs of a civilian camp in South Sudan, to a tabby cat gazing out onto the morning rush in Brooklyn, New York.
“I didn’t want to make any specific correlations,” says Wearing. “I don’t want anything to feel like a comment but at the same time I want edits to work with each other.”
“I was concerned that people may not want to participate if their view was not stunning,” she goes on to note. “For many of us a view is just a backyard or a brick wall, but I find that just as interesting.”
Wearing explains that each window clip was sent to her via an online upload after she issued a worldwide call-out to anyone who wished to collaborate on this project. She was overwhelmed by the response, with some 600 films sent to her including the vista of photojournalist Olivier Moeckli, currently based in Afghanistan.
“Gillian has the skill of drawing out things from people she works with,” says HOUSE curator, Celia Davies. “Here, the people are collaborating behind the camera. [The work] is not out to shock, but very much a commentary on the disquiet. It is a gentle work.”
The installation will be the Birmingham-born artist’s first solo show in the South Coast of England. Her work aims to explore the tension between the individual and collective experience. Her vast portfolio includes another collaborative photography project, Signs that say…, where her subjects posed holding billboards onto which they had written their thoughts and confessions.
Other exhibitions participating in the Brighton visual arts festival include a new installation by British Journal of Photography award winner, Felicity Hammond,co-commissioned by Photoworks. Showroom: The Language of Living is a site-specific work of digitally morphed photographs of property developers’ billboards, printed onto acrylic and later sculpted into curious objects using heat.
“The structure echoes the bare timber walls that it was built in,” says Hammond. “It is a comment on the education responsible for urban regeneration. And the idea of it as a pop up is like the nature of marketing suites that get put up and down very quickly. I want to pander to the anxieties of people living in that environment.”
There is also an exhibition of vibrant paintings by Thompson Hall at the Regency Town House; a community drawing project hosted by illustrator, Chris Riddell; and Luminary, a show of towering LED light sculptures at Fabrica by Ron Haselden, as part of the Brighton Festival. All of the participating exhibitions are the artists’ individual interpretations of this year’s theme of “Home”, some as a sense of our private and intimate space, and some as our connection to the broader environment we live in.
“For some, ‘Home’ is just a physical dwelling, for others it signifies where we root our daily lives, or a direct reflection on our identity,” Davies explains. “’Home’ can also be a concept, a locator in our mind-set that can make us feel secure, or at times uneasy.”
HOUSE Festival runs from 30 April to 29 May across various venues in Brighton. Learn more here.