A 'Locked-Down' Artist Takeover
Presented by Schoeni Projects
In collaboration with HKwalls
Urban art ‘takeover’ in London townhouse - responding to COVID-19 pandemic
In person: 24 July – 24 August 2020
Online here: from 3 August 2020
Schoeni Projects, London is pleased to present disCONNECT, an exhibition transforming a South London townhouse – currently under renovation – with new site-specific works from ten urban artists working across seven countries. The exhibition runs in-person from 24 July – 24 August and online from 3 August, 2020. It is presented in close collaboration with HKwalls – a Hong-Kong based non-profit arts organisation that aims to create opportunities for local and international artists to showcase their talent through the mediums of street art and street culture.
Opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition is adapted to not only adhere to lockdown restrictions, but also to reflect on the creative and physical constraints of the current global crisis, exploring psychological and political reactions, as well as the role of technology as conduit between the two. Accessible to online audiences through Matterport software, each work is further activated through an accompanying programme of digital initiatives, including downloadable art works, online videos, virtual tours, and an Instagram Live interview series. The exhibition also encourages the public to submit their own art works for potential inclusion.
London-based artists Aida Wilde, Alex Fakso, David Bray and Mr Cenz create their site-specific pieces within the space, whilst adhering to UK social distancing guidelines. Repositioning one of the house’s toilets as a ‘pandemic mausoleum’ complete with Emoji wallpaper, Wilde presents her signature text works on paraphernalia including t-shirts and hats, with slogans sharing reactions to the pandemic – some the artist’s own (‘FEAR LESS LESS FEAR’), others sourced through social media outreach (‘99% of us are in this together’). Surrounded by everyday objects which have become totemic of the contemporary climate - toilet roll tubes donated by neighbours, discarded objects from "lock-down” spring cleaning and bottles of bleach sourced locally from the independent manufacturer Zamo – the works are presented alongside hazard tape, demarcating ‘socially distanced’ two metre intervals. In an adjoining storeroom is her Pandemik Panik Room, which comprises of posters from her neighbourhood community outreach print making workshop, held prior to her residency at the house.
In a nearby hallway, Mr Cenz’s mural Inside Out expands the ordered patterns and colours from the house’s tiled floor into a fantastical blend of photorealism, illustration and graffiti lettering, reflective of his many street works which decorate the city of London. Upstairs in the ‘master bedroom’, Fakso presents new photography-based works reflecting on isolation and the pandemic. Images of crowds taken during the artist’s travels (before the pandemic) are presented alongside found archive portraiture. In an adjoining bedroom, Bray’s landscape paintings provide a means of escapism for audiences, whilst they remain restricted from physically travelling. Responding to a personal need for escape felt more than ever, Bray creates imaginary views of the outside world, finding peace with an inner journey.
Artists creating remotely include Vhils, whose bas-relief carving technique transforms the house’s library doors, received, and worked on during lockdown in his Lisbon studio. Sao Paulo-based Adam Neate also creates works on the house’s window blinds, shipped to his studio - some ‘positive propaganda’ text works, others show torturous figures bearing extreme isolation.
Cordal’s new miniatures, placed throughout the house, respond directly to global images of the pandemic; a man in his dressing gown stands alone within a bird’s cage, whilst a quarantined masked couple appear both socially and emotionally distanced on their sofa, eyes fixated to phone screens.
Iranian born, Brooklyn-based, arts duo Icy & Sot’s kitchen-based installation is modelled on a discarded table found within the unrenovated house. Titled Socialism vs Capitalism (2020), the folding table is now complete with two folding table places: the plates and cutlery split and hinged so they too move with the tabletop. The work reflects on the often-debilitating effects of capitalism on the poor, here represented through the most basic of human needs: food.
Berlin-based artist duo HERAKUT’s cardboard installation Silent Battle (2020) presents children engaged in various competitive games against an assortment of characters. Suggestive of an imaginary world conjured up to combat childhood isolation, the work also proposes that seclusion does not impede personal growth: ‘spending time challenging yourself holds the opportunity to become a better version of yourself - hopefully a nicer, kinder and more appreciative self’, the artists explain.
Zoer’s piece A Case Study of a House (2020), presents an anamorphic installation created through a ‘barricade’ of domestic objects and furniture stacked within the space. Highlighting both the reality and futility of partitions, the works symbolise the ‘shield’ of objects and material possessions used to evoke social or emotional ‘distance’ to others.
Schoeni Projects is a new contemporary arts platform promoting and celebrating cross-cultural exchange through an innovative series of collaborations, presented in unique creative environments. Founded by Nicole Schoeni, it focuses on two initiatives each year – with an outlook from ‘West-to-East’ and ‘East-to-West’. Following the exhibition’s run in London, the works will travel to Schoeni Projects HK, to be presented alongside a dedicated programme of dialogues and discussions around artistic expression and the current pandemic, led by Hong Kong-based artists, in November 2020.
Nicole Schoeni, director, comments: “Schoeni Projects is the exciting next chapter in my family’s commitment to facilitating cross-cultural collaborations between Asia and Europe. Building on this legacy, my new venture expands beyond the confines of the typical gallery model. I had always wanted to mark this with an unconventional show – namely a street-art takeover before we are set to renovate Schoeni Projects’ future home., confronted with the pandemic, the adaptable and topical practice of this artistic medium has become integral to the project’s fruition. My hope is that, whilst reflecting my father’s philosophy and unique joie-de-vivre, through Schoeni Projects London and Hong Kong we will also provide distinctly new and dynamic spaces, which offer a truly contemporary hub for artists and art lovers to meet, engage and collaborate."
Artist Mr. Cenz comments:"At a time where we have been disconnected from our friends and family my work is about the importance of connecting internally with your imagination, creativity, and aesthetic pleasures in order to maintain a positive mental health. This ability to be at one with yourself, think positively and have hope for the future is fundamental in our ability to cope and rebuild our lives."
Artist Isaac Cordal comments:“The proposal for this exhibition came before the pandemic, but the virus and its side effects were the protagonist of the production process; freedom of movement is restricted as well as access to materials. With all this it was necessary to make a mixture of works that whispered to our present concerns about the future. I was surprised that many topics I had worked on in the past became more relevant to the current confinement itself; events were accelerating, creating a vertigo of the unknown. Our relationship with isolation, social distancing, the balcony as a panopticon, the romanticization of the confinement …the news of the day invades everything. An invisible enemy became our roommate, like an annoying squatter for the welfare society. Turn everything off but wash your hands."
To access the exhibition through VR go to schoeniprojects.com/vr