Starting from the Self

6 May-27 August 2017

Lilian Domec
Hackney Flashers
Helga Henschen
Lubaina Himid
Pia Sandström
Billie Zangewa

Starting from the Self is a group exhibition exploring practices that begin from the personal experiences of the artist(s) to understand how society is structured and organises us. The exhibition is particularly concerned with how gender, race and class play into questions of private and public boundaries and the different ways people have transgressed and renegotiated these  borders and the categorisation of space.

The exhibition includes work by local artist Helga Henschen, a resident of Sundbyberg who persistently and playfully inserted her words and work into the public sphere. Henschen is known for reformulating advertising space to publicly communicate her criticisms of society, and for building an art practice that could be tied to public political work through the Social Democrat Party, where she fought for the rights of political prisoners and children. Stockholm based artist Pia Sandström develops a new commission in the gallery, that explores the urban environment as seen through the eyes and experiences of the other female artists in the exhibition. Pia’s work forms a framework to navigate the works of Helga Henschen, Lilian Domec, Hackney Flashers, Lubaina Himid, and Billie Zangewa.

Notions of public and private space and the codes with which we behave in these spheres becomes sometimes painfully evident when entering an art space. Unwritten rules such as quietness, no running, or even where you are allowed to enter the gallery can produce anxiety. At Marabouparken Konsthall, Pia Sandström tries to play with, and breakdown those regulations. Another entrance way stands ajar, offering a backdoor for the audience to find their way into the space whilst a series of pillars replicating the original architecture, reshape the main gallery. With these pillars Pia provides a support structure for displaying Helga Henschen’s posters, simulating the cultural advertisements you would see outside the gallery strapped around lampposts. Other painted arrows and floor markings suggest connection and navigation for the audience between the other works.

For example, Henschen and Domec’s work and life shares many similarities. Both were active in the same period and used their work to stimulate political discussion and debate through drawing and commentary in the public sphere. They both were part of the women’s movement and spurred on the implementation of gender equality reforms in the 1970s. Women’s rights are discussed in the slideshow by Hackney Flashers, whose campaign around childcare and the isolation of women at home was happening simultaneously in the UK. Questions around how we might understand motherhood and female identity today can also be found in the work of Billie Zangewa and her depiction of the contemporary parent, single and empowered in her home.

But what happens when we move from the home into the public space? What controls and boundaries are in place there? Lubaina Himid’s piece What are monuments for: Paris / London Guidebooks considers what we see when we encounter a city – what people and names can be seen on city streets or historicised in monuments? And what invisible regulations do these entrench in the narrative of who makes a city and who a city is for? Her piece Jelly Mould Pavillions offers us an alternative sculptural walk through the Konsthall. There you can see a proposal for other monuments for the city of Liverpool, that we might see if it were indeed a place that recognised and represented the contribution of it’s communities to the place it is today.

Each of these distinct works raise discussions on separation and boundaries based on gender, race and class, which feel ever more relevant to raise today. These critiques have developed from a willingness of the contributors to start from the self, to build upon personal experiences and histories in order to understand how society segregates us. Yet these works also offer hope, proposals, a way forward in order to provoke debate, change and transgress these preset divides. The city can be seen as a place where these invisible boundaries are intensified yet they are also sites of continuous change and activity, activity that disregards these unwritten rules, and persistently erodes the invisible codes of conduct. As Lilian Domec once wrote in a postcard to her friend and collaborator, art must demonstrate, that everything is possible if you let go of habitual thought patterns.

In connection to the exhibition we open up the Konsthall and present Spring Clean – a weekend of events and performances investigating the different ways society structures us to perform in different spaces, from public to private, from home to work. For more information and to find out about our full public programme please visit www.marabouparken.se

Starting from the Self is the third exhibition within Acts of Self Ruin and connects to practices which challenge and question the normalised boundaries between self and society, the personal and political. Practices that can be described as putting themselves risk or ruin in questioning the control (and choreography) of different bodies and actions within public space.