Sam Cheney, ‘National Air Donation Service’, 2007. [enlarge]

Sam Cheney, ‘National Air Donation Service’, 2007.

Miranda Housden, ‘Untitled’, 2007. [enlarge]

Miranda Housden, ‘Untitled’, 2007.


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Chisenhale Biennale

Chisenhale Art Place, London
14-16 September 2007

Reviewed by: Julliete Brown »

Couldn’t make it to Venice this year? Engaged in a sanity or environmentally-motivated boycott of the biennale? You could have done worse than the charms of the ‘Chisenhale Biennale’, housed in an old spitfire factory on a canal closer to home, and comprising Chisenhale Gallery, Dance Space, and forty artists’ studios. Biennale curators Alana Jelinek and Richard Layzell took the opportunity of the regular open studios event to crank up the fun with a packed schedule of performance work by guest artists, readings, talks, walks, video jukebox and mini film festival.

Open studios can feel like walking into a private party, but the performances gave this event a wonderfully inclusive feeling. Up the main staircase, Ruth Harvey-Regan and Deborah Hirst worked on a drawing in response to visitors, while Phoebe Davies blocked the landing in Squeeze, endlessly attempting to fit into her shoes. Adding to the slightly surreal atmosphere, Sam Cheney from the National Air Donation Service (NADS), called for donations of air to go to those in need, bagging these in brown paper. Throughout the weekend, events such as Tom Milnes’ sound performance and Marianne Holm Hansen’s projection and questionnaire, 100 things not worth repeating, maintained the buzz. There was also the opportunity to hear Alana Jelinek read from her newly published novel Ohm’s Law, on a corporate-run global future.

Suitably, Paula Roush displayed documents from her Boycott Biennale Archive, a study of the history of boycotting art biennales since 1968. She also performed throughout the opening night, as a DJ in full veil. Further down the third floor, susan pui san lok offered a hidden gem: her Mobile Ballroom, which brought a smile to many, and a spring to their step. The ballroom altered space and brought time to a standstill as strangers waltzed the evening away in a rundown ex-factory in Bow.

Richard Layzell led impromptu tours of this building that was derelict in 1975 when forty artists walked in. They put up partitions and installed electrics to build their own studios. Some are still working here including Jan Dowman, who embraced the spirit with a lovely installation. Some key players of British conceptual art have worked at Chisenhale over the years, so it must have brought back a little of the spirit of those early days to see the space filled with young conceptual artists.

The film festival featured Optimistic’s The Games, which is fast achieving notoriety as the film that shows exactly what will be lost when the Hackney Marshes and the Manor Park allotments are cemented over for 2012. That film and the dig at Venice both make a lovely point about local over global: how much is lost in all the big-bucks extravaganzas of international culture, when the home-grown can give such pleasure, and the local produce such sterling work.

Venue detail:
Chisenhale Art Place »
64-84 Chisenhale Road, Bow, LONDON E3 5QZ

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