Unlimited in Brighton Tweet
posted on: 24 May 2016, posted by: Simon Overington-Hickford
Our Programme Coordinator Sara, based at Shape – one of the co-delivery partners on Unlimited, heads to Brighton to check out the Unlimited-supported work in the Brighton Festival.
Following our recent blog on Brighton Festival, I went down to sunny Brighton to have a look at what this year’s festival has to offer, swinging by the Brighton Dome to check in on the Unlimited Films and seeing if I could find Bekki Perriman’s Unlimited commission The Doorways Project installed and hidden around the city centre.
My first stop in Brighton was Brighton Dome who have partnered with Unlimited to showcase three films, by Unlimited artists, in their café bar area. This busy hub is a surprising and unexpected exhibition space, but the presentation of the films is striking enough to notice when you enter the café, or while queuing for a drink or snack!
I was really pleased to see so many visitors stopping to spend time with each piece – laughing along with Sheila Hill’s “Him”, reflecting on Richard Butchin’s “213 Things about me”, or quietly taking in Craig Simpson’s “It’s Like…” .
After enjoying the films (and café), I decided to venture out into the city, on a sort of art-treasure-hunt, to find Bekki Perriman’s The Doorways Project installations, picking up one of the maps available from Brighton Dome to help visitors locate and engage with the project.
Each site for the Doorways Project has a speaker streaming a recorded monologue, extracted from conversations that the artist had with local homeless people. Situated in doorways, underneath cover, roofs, or shelter, the locations invite us to engage intimately with the experience of homelessness through these first-hand experiences. A transcript is located at each site, to ensure the work is accessible for any hearing impaired visitors, but it also serves well for those who want to spend a bit more time at each location in order to read and reflect, as I did.
Finding each of the locations became quite a challenge for me as the map directs visitors to the correct street and building, but finding the actual artwork – the speaker and transcript – was trickier.
It’s an unnerving experience to find yourself on the street, searching for the work in doorways and shelters, and thinking to yourself “What nearby looks like a good shelter? Where would I sleep?”
Hearing the personal accounts from these people first-hand, in a familiar and perhaps overlooked environment, becomes a unique and harrowing experience. I personally found Jessica’s monologue to be an especially emotional account: hers is situated outside the Brighton Sanctuary Housing Association, on the corner of a busy and unassuming side street which leads to a car park. On the opposite side of the street are two cafes, trendy and full of young people drinking coffees and nibbling cakes; the dichotomy of listening to a heart-wrenching and very real story of hardship and distress while others are indulging and enjoying themselves within earshot subtly epitomised the whole of this work for me.
“I think choice is the wrong word. I think when people say you make a choice to be homeless I think it is really dangerous because I don’t think anyone chooses to be homeless. I think they end up homeless and then once they’re on the streets, it’s not a choice to stay there, because a choice is giving the impression you can do something about it if you want to. When you are battered down, you start to believe what is around you. You start to believe that you are worthless, you are dirty and this is the only place you belong and you start to believe you don’t really have a future and you lose any sense of hope. It’s not that easy to make a decision that this isn’t going to be my life anymore, like, where do you start? I couldn’t turn to any authorities and say “ok, I want to get off the streets, help me” because they were like, “you are fine, you are ok, you are surviving.”
Jessica’s story, along with four others, is one that visitors like myself won’t soon forget.
The Brighton Festival is only on until 29th May – don’t miss the chance to experience this brilliant work during such a vibrant festival.