Berry Patten tells us more about her Platform 2016 commission and through the roof we hit the ceiling. Patten’s process is thought-provoking and addresses directly the site that she chose for this commission. The installation will inhabit the corridor-like gallery space that looks out on to Brookmill Road.
The nature of the space presents an unusual challenge for artists and curators, but Patten was interested in the potential of the gallery. Her approach takes in imagined alternate-world situations for spaces such as these, and considers an aesthetic that is replicated so frequently across our cities that we barely even stop to register what it means. The physical work doesn’t stop with the de-installation, either – she reveals her plans for the materials afterwards, highlighting the inherent value of the components of a public art work.
Deptford X: Can you tell me about your practice?
Berry Patten: My work includes drawing, print, sculpture, film, and performance. I'm interested in the navigational process and the tensions of an investigation — this often manifests in a sense of open discussion within the work. A diaristic approach keeps the work entwined with my subjective experience of society as I open up a potentially awkward, vulnerable and anxiety inducing discussion around issues of identity, gender, class and various socio-political conditions in contemporary society, most recently focusing on housing.
DX: Can you tell me a little about the location you've chosen for your work and why you chose to use that space?
BP: I was really interested in the awkwardness of the gallery dimensions, the way the space felt it shouldn't really be entered but viewed from outside and the fact that its primary viewing point was from the busy road. I wanted to explore this idea of a highly specific, architecturally imposed distance as a mode of engagement with a public audience. In Appleyard & Lynch A View From the Road they talk about the road user being a captive audience. ‘The driver seeks to find meaning in what he sees: to relate the visible objects to the stock of ideas in his mind. Would it be possible to use the highway as a means of education, a way of making the driver aware of the function, history and human values of the world.’ This made me think of how you experience the exterior of buildings when you are a a passenger on the road. I talked about this in a previous film work, being a child passenger on long journeys and the idea of racing an imagined rabbit/creature alongside the car with you.
My installation concerns itself specifically with the range of approaches to disused properties in contemporary society, in a range of attempts to make as much money from or harness as much creative potential from the intermediary stage of a buildings usage. I hope to nudge the interest and curiosity of passing cars to question what the installation is, with its visual language so close to the everyday fabric of background architectural noise… Is a new restaurant opening? Is an old restaurant closing? What was there before? I want people to build their own narrative about this poised aesthetic of regeneration.
DX: What can you tell me about what you'll be doing for your Deptford X commission?
BP: I’m presenting a new work: and through the roof we hit the ceiling. Its a site-specific response to the space which occupies the ground floor of a large residential development. Boarding up the windows and installing fictional property guardians, I'm hoping to draw attention to the fluid and contested nature of space in London: how we use it, trade it, desire it and defend it. I got excited by the names property guardianship companies use, names such a Camelot and Dot Dot Dot… These romantic chimeras or dream like solutions seem ill at ease with the reality of what these schemes offer. The idea of Camelot originated from texts within Matter of Britain which make up a body of medieval literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain. I love the laconic language of that title… Within the context of this installation it's become a question - what's the matter with Britain? I found a campaign that was implemented by Burnley Council where they printed life like posters of vases of roses on window sills and neat painted doors to cover boarded up windows and doors of derelict properties in poor areas. It's like the fronts you get on building construction sites, proudly stating ‘We are changing the face of construction!’ I think these illusions of engineered promise are really interesting. What's behind the boarded up space of temporary living, renovation or new construction… A secret space is behind and that void allows imagined narrative, betrayal, cliche, gossip and fantasy.
DX: In what ways will this work differ from or continue to pursue the themes and interests of your previous work up to this point?
BP: I usually build a very personal relationship to a space and think about the way it makes me feel and how I might marry those feelings with what I’ve been thinking about elsewhere at that time. My previous show was at a space where I had lived, cooked and spent time with different people in a personal way and that really directed the show in a very inwards and reflective direction, revealing intimate habits and cycles of thought.
This installation will be more about the space and location of the project allowing me to delve into an area of my work that concerns itself quite specifically with social issues. This show is about opening up the idea of cliche or hard-wired expectations, the language and visual language we have become worn down by when we think about the politics and aesthetics of regeneration. I think the way in which it carries on from my previous work is that the language I use to discuss this is the same. I'm trying to rethink an idea with instinct, curiosity, humour and absurdity. The impractical width of the space doesn't automatically allow for generosity in the sense of community or invitation within my work. Sharing, and the ongoing life of objects is an important thing to me; therefore I'm giving the boards used for the installation to Deptford X and to LARA Project Space after the show has finished, thus giving the work a future use and allowing it to become in itself a tenant or character in the story.