‘We feel that it’s important for arts centres to provide space for audiences to reflect on the work that they produce.’
As the Youth Panel, we’d been thinking a lot about this – how we create a place and what the impact could be. Our response to the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition, BoomHouse, aimed to do this. Like a hand in a glove, BoomHouse sat proudly, comfortably in a corner of the Barbican Foyer – a space which normally stands unused, empty, absent. Like all absent places, it deserved a presence – a place for people to call home.
Numerous discussions prior to the installation centred on creating a space which felt homely – one where people felt at ease and comfortable. BoomHouse was the brainchild of the Youth Panel, a collective voice of young people, finding their way in the world, united by a shared love of, and vision for the future of the Arts. But in order to think about the future, we have to try to understand and shape the now. We need to ask questions, to have discussions and to prompt conversations with one another.
Like a hand in a glove, BoomHouse sat proudly, comfortably in a corner of the Barbican Foyer
A lot of the installation centred on this notion – it was, at its heart, an invitation to anyone to think, respond, create, invent or simply just be (whether that to be the exhibition itself, or to the wider world). Basquiat was an artist who reminded us of the importance of being heard amidst the crowd, of speaking up at the world instead of just consuming it – in the same way that he handed a postcard to Andy Warhol, and said ‘this is who I am / this is what I do’, we wanted to offer the people who experienced the Barbican to feel the same way.
In galleries it can sometimes feel as though you are being herded towards certain pieces, instructed to follow a set path, carefully observed by staff members whose job is to protect the art from ‘onlookers’. We wanted BoomHouse to be free from restriction and rule – and instead be open to response and participation, with people free to do as they wished.
We wanted BoomHouse to be free from restriction and rule
I think something we all loved was the willingness that people had to engage with the space, and the varying levels of engagement that the installation prompted. We created postcards for people to read, draw on, write on – to hang up or take home. We invited people to draw on a wall (they drew on four) and created makeshift stools to prompt conversation between strangers (they drew on these too – inviting conversation that we hadn’t even intended; to the next people)
Each of these contributed to a rich tapestry of responses, of people making sense of things
On day one of the installation, I watched a mum and her young son sit together on one of the stools which Georgia had created – sitting amongst the first ‘entries’ on the wall, looking. Others were more ‘active’, writing on the walls, physically leaving their mark on their space and inking a permanence which told others this is where I was and this is what I think – ‘Take it or leave’ capitalised and stuck on the wall for all to see. Then there were those who walked through – with no doors to shut off the audience or to officially begin and end the experience, participants were free to come and go as they pleased, leaving traces only of where they were heading next or where they had been. Some may have entered accidentally, mid-search, but there’s something quite lovely about this – especially in a city like London, where it sometimes feels like everybody is focused on getting to a fixed point, in a fixed time. And then there were those who drew patterns in the corners of postcards, who coloured in letters, and who asked ‘does doodling count?’
Each of these contributed to a rich tapestry of responses, of people making sense of things – an illustration of how we all do things differently (and the beauty of just being different).
Looking forward I think we are all excited for the opportunities that will inevitably arise from offering people the space to start and have conversations, positioning ourselves perhaps as facilitators. Because in this ever changing world, in times of both uncertainty and clarity, in happiness and dismay, when we feel growing disconnect, yet love unconditionally it’s important that we keep talking, and listening to one another.
Now we ask, who’s in? We’re all ears.
Written by Katie Dunstan .
Stay tuned for more info on our projects and movements.
Our Youth Panel helps to ensure that young people’s ideas and opinions are brought into conversations, projects and events across the Barbican.
Part of The Art of Change, our 2018 annual theme which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.