When the first lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020, our homes and how we lived within them changed completely. Home began to take on a new meaning as it became more than just a living space but where all elements of life played out, from schooling and studying to working and socialising and often the only connection to the outside world came through digital media and video calls.
This changing relationship with our homes as the weeks and months rolled on is explored in the exhibition - House Share - on view at Firstsite
, Colchester. Curated by Firstsites Young Art Kommunity (YAK) group, working in partnership with Firstsite and Arts Council Collection (ACC), with whom Firstsite is a National Partner 2019-22, House Share responds to the groups experiences during the three UK lockdowns.
House Share is also the first in a series of exhibitions curated by young people across the three ACC National Partner sites. Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange will follow with their exhibition, SEEN, in October 2021, with Sunderland hosting their exhibition curated by Young Curators, Celebrate Different, in early 2022. The exhibitions aim to bring young people together from across the country, connecting them with each other and with the Arts Council Collection.
As arguably the generation most negatively affected by the pandemic and lockdown, the YAK members, all aged 16-25 years old, use the exhibition to examine how their home took on a dual role as a creative and safe space, but also encompassed feelings of being confined.
The exhibition asks what events, experiences and emotions were shared between households, communities, generations and individuals, and what was radically different.
To create and curate the exhibition, the YAK group worked closely with a variety of artists, along with a poet, filmmaker, sound artist and herbalist, to respond to a variety of key themes. The result is a multi-sensory and interactive space designed to evoke a sense of each members home.
House Share is a culmination of all our experiences of the 'home' during lockdown, and how our relationship with this has evolved over the past year or so. Creating and curating this exhibition has been an incredibly empowering and reflective process for YAK, enabling us to think about how we can create new conversations between different artworks from the ACC, and focus on accessibility and interactivity. I hope that visitors feel comfortable and welcome within the exhibition space, and are inspired to reflect upon the role of their 'homes' and the connections these provide, in their lives then and now, says YAK member, Freya Gascoyne, age 18 (@frey.art_ on instagram).
Many artworks in the show are from the Arts Council Collection, the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world, with the members of YAK selecting pieces by artists including Janice Kerbel, Jesse Darling, Tracey Mackenna, Matthew Dalziel & Louise Scullion and Jean-Luc Vilmouth, complete with interventions led by sound artist Frazer Merrick, poet Laila Sumpton, and artists Rita Castanheira and Emily Mulenga. Frazer, Laila, Rita and Emily will also run workshops throughout the summer, inviting members of the public to explore their own experiences of lockdown and how this changes their views of home.
Works included in the exhibition span more than 80 years of art history from Anthony Devas (1911-1958) 1940 figurative painting Six OClock News of a slumped man, cigarette in hand, starring beyond the frame of the work at a TV screen we imagine is there, to Andy Holdens 2014 sculpture Totem for Thingly Time (IV) which has been described by the artist as part cake, part stalagmite, part pastel hangover. Formed of dripping plaster, Holden explains that this work was an attempt to make an object that revealed the time of its own construction.
A highlight of the exhibition is a digital sampler that plays sounds taken from YAK members homes mixed with noises from the homes of the young people who are curating the exhibitions at the other ACC national partner sites in Tyne and Wear and Cornwall - documenting daily comings and goings, the hubbub of family conversation and moments of quiet.
Firstsite Director, Sally Shaw MBE says House Share offers a chance to experience lockdown from a young persons point of view to see how the pandemic has directly impacted young lives, how this will influence their futures and what we can all learn from their experiences.
The pandemic has meant many important life events often experienced by young people, whether it be leaving home, starting a career or further education, or exploring independence in another way, had to be put on hold or rewritten. This exhibition shows that thinking creatively when faced with challenges, opens up new possibilities and ways to connect to others. Although confined to their homes during lockdown, YAK members worked together to make this moving exhibition which articulates their own unique viewpoints but also creates opportunities for us all to reflect on our experiences and think differently about our future challenges.
Jodie Edwards, General Manager, National Partners Programme said, Were delighted to have been able to support YAK on the creation of their exhibition, House Share. YAK have brought fresh eyes to the Collection and have selected a range of work which creatively reflects their personal experiences of lockdown and provides a whole new perspective on the pandemic.