Island Biography, the exhibition

Our projects confront contemporary problems, especially concerning the Millennial generation, with an authentically inclusive intention. This collective is about welcoming everyone to critically question society today, and come together to drop the penny.

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That’s exactly what we’re doing in our current project, ‘Island Biography (Home for Now)’. It confronts the question of housing, plodding over the history of landlords vs tenants wearing boots made of poetry, photography, media and the tradition of objets trouvés.

This exhibition will be at The Workshop in Lambeth (www.theworkshoplondon.com) on the 25/26 May 2018, 10am-5pm with an evening viewing on Friday 25th May. Free entry. Come along – join us!

There are various parts to ‘Island Biography’. Firstly, there is a series of six doors, each printed with one section of a seven-section poem about the history of housing in London, detailing various instances of the elite dominating the land and the domination being resisted.

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Photographs presenting the complex dynamic of housing are displayed around the doors, leading you in to a totality of strangely simulated experienced, pushed into a frame, everything inside functioning as a reproduction of ‘home’, whatever ‘home’ could mean, that place you spend half your wage on, and all you get in return is a single room and a tiny window.

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Hanging from the ceiling around the main doors and photographs are little cardboard doors. They display poems written by people at local community centres during Penny Drops workshops, so that anyone can express their hopes and concerns about housing in London.

More cardboard doors will be available during the exhibition so that any guest can write their own housing poem and add it to the show.

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Island Biography (Home for Now) is about pushing into the problem that rejects us, grabbing the grey hair in the thrones that shakes its superior finger and casts us into this quiet loneliness, into our single rooms and simulated existences. Those grey-haired grotesques in power were educated for free and benefited from the social privileges of a Keynesian economic system, and with that firm footing in our land they tossed us into the postmodern condition of constant physical loss alongside endless ontological insecurity.

That strange place between ontological emptiness – no longer able to believe any universal enlightenment imperatives about existence – and empirical inability – in this place where we know our jobs are perversely meaningless and cannot ever hope to buy a single house to comfortably live in. That place is where we are trying to enter with this project. And with you too, whoever the hell you are.

We can no longer just accept that easy binary. We the authentic people against the commodity selling us unnecessary ephemera. That divide is dead.

We know it is dead, that reified divide between appearance and reality, but we still have to perform.

Žižek talks about this a lot. He reminds us that at the beginning of Das Kapital Marx mentions the fact that when we see a commodity, we are not surprised by its abstract appearance, by the schemata of magical associations it ignites in us, but rather by its total banality, its very average physical existence. But between this material dialectic of us looking and the commodity simply being, there is something. Something else. This thing we know is not there. We are perfectly aware that the commodity in fact will not bring us more friends, more love or a better quality existence. But we want it anyway.

Žižek describes this with a joke. There’s this woman (he says man, but let’s say woman), and she thinks she’s a grain, a grain of corn or whatever. She is a farmer and she’s terrified of being eaten, being crushed, being turned into food, because she’s a grain. So she goes to therapy, to an institute, all the rest of it, and after years she comes out and she’s fine. She goes back to the farm.

But then one day she rushes back into the therapist’s office, in a panic. The therapist says, ‘What’s wrong?’ And the woman says, ‘Well, there’s this chicken on the farm. I think it’s going to eat me. I’m terrified. I’m in a bad way. I will get eaten by a chicken…’ etcetera and so on.

The therapist shakes her head in confusion and says, ‘But, we have been through this. You are cured. You now know that you are not a grain. You know you are a human. Right?’

‘Yes, I know,’ says the farmer, ‘but I don’t know if the chicken knows that.’

We know this absurd system of abusive power is dead, it cannot go on and the young will not accept this once the grey-hairs finally kick the solid guise of the ideological structure holding them up in weightless air. We know that. But we are not sure that the system knows that. So we keep performing, like the madwoman with the pecking chicken.

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That is why we keep doing this. Because although minor manifestations of bellicose abuse may have whimpered away from the spotlight that youth movements cast on them, like the Parkland students in Florida this year (2018), the grounding of that power still resolutely remains. It remains everywhere, even if it is only us who see it as a corpse beyond repair. The leaves have all fallen and rotted in the mud. But the root is still stuck. The universality is still there.

We do not want to misunderstand universality. The manifestations and the performances of power over the world are unique and special – the fist-fronted systematic Russian homophobia is not the same as the religiously-supported gay-hatred of Uganda. The universality is in the source of the power, the idea used as conceptual grounding to brutally break resistance and to conquer every inch of the world with the claw of colonial capitalism. The universality is in the breath before the ideological discourse is even spoken.

And that is why we keep up this fight. Because the appearance is dead, belief is dead, but the power behind it is not. To believe in the individual structure of the body is still to believe in a metaphysical idealism that ends in God. We are not rejecting God or Christian morality or Enlightenment dogma if we go on with these themes of belief, of corporeality, existing within a body and rejecting the rhizomatic power of rebellion as unity, never as individuality.

Here, with this project, we reject the body, reject the singularity, we totally abandon the simplistic divide between We the Material and They the Ideal. We reject the ideal and the entirety of metaphysical structures. We have words, we have thought, we have power. And we use them to pull up a chair into the middle of this material game and give every side a little physical talking to.

A little physical talking to through doors that open onto nothing, doors that enclose no privilege. We are not locking in the Self or the source of words. We do not favour the presence of the spoken word over the absence on the other side. We just heave a little physicality out of a door and invite you in, into this place that is not navigable by structures because doors do not open or close, into this non-place that is never ‘I’, always ‘we’, and where we are everywhere.