A place to stay
Head in case, Room 16, 2009.
Where do you go if you need a place to stay in the city? There is no one around to put you up or you want your own space, would like your own key. For the short time you are in the city you want to come and go as you please.
The photography and thoughts I developed at the New Cross Inn were made at a time when I needed something of my own. Paradoxically, I stayed in a place where little is yours other than your suit case. The decision to live in the hostel was based on the following: I had stayed there on a weekly basis over the course of an academic year and knew the place well; After my studies at Goldsmiths, it would be unlikely that I would return there; I wanted to move away from Northampton to be in London in my last term of university; I couldn’t afford to rent a flat. In the uncertain circumstance of unemployment, I needed as much autonomy as my financial resources would allow. Using this logic I identified the hostel as a place that could provide the background to my work and life. These conditions are not burdens but considerations.
Circumstance plays a significant role in what we choose to look at and how we do so. Conscious of certain situations that affected my life I deliberately used them to make a decision on the direction of my work. Following a path didn’t equate to the realisation of a fixed subject. All I knew was that I wanted to create a personal aesthetic of the physical and psychological space I had found. I left this to chance and whimsy, avoiding predicating outcomes. I had picked a spot and went about living my life, responding to moments and situations that made me want to take photographs. Immersing myself in my own story wasn’t an act of isolating myself from the many lives that passed through the hostel, I just didn’t want to chase tales. Listening to other people’s days and lives is inevitable when you share space with so many. I remained a room mate, or fellow guest; I became a friend and invited those who were already close to me to join me.
Every choice I make is subjective, the moments we make and chose to distinguish as circumstance is nothing other than a limitation we place over our own imaginations. Playing with these ideas didn’t constrict me, my narrative became more open.
Naked on the roof, 2009.
POST CARDS FROM ANEAR
Standing on the roof of the new cross Inn you can see all over london. From room 16 I can see the small window into Alisons office at laurie grove baths. As I turn my temporary room into a camera obscura the image of warnington tower slowly moves upside down and the wrong way round across the wall. From tower to tower, the connection between the outside and inside world is exteriorized in front of me. The phantasmagoria of the public and private overlap as the light from a small hole pierces two possible worlds with a single beam of sunshine. I climbed up a ladder through the sky light on the third floor corridor, I wasn’t the first. If I hadn’t seen other people do it, I wouldn’t have thought to take a picture of myself naked on the roof, and felt the fresh air blow on my skin. It was a private moment, but I needed the help of a stranger.
The distance I stand away from the world is a measured exposure, however, I can’t control how people see me. I woke up in the night and screamed. It took me a whole day to realise I did scream. I woke myself up with an unrelenting roar. ‘Are you all right’, Elisa, asked me. I was fine, Lois seemed more disturbed than me. His ear plugs couldn’t muffle my cry. I can’t tell you why I yelled, there was a weight on me and I had to repel it. Did Lois throw himself off a building in a dream, and land on me as I lay below him. I pushed the baleful force away from me with all my strength.
Space is a matter of give and take, but sometimes you have to use force, and jostle with the people you share a room with. Locked doors are no good when three other people have a key. Empathy and granting one another small favours can make a difference to a day. I went with out my own toothpaste for two days and consciously tried to follow the same groves the owner used to elicit the dental gel, that was left by the washbasin. Yeah, I’m a sneak. I took a couple of cotton buds when the urge to clean my ears took hold of me. I gave as well as took, revealed shades of myself and tried to shut doors so no one could enter. It seems easier telling you all this from a distance, as I talk and listen to my own echo.
Text first published in Streetsigns by CUCR at Goldsmiths College, autumn/winter 2009
One year later Hannah and I return to the hostel to curate a two day site- specific photographic installation, based on work from A place to stay, in room 16. The show was part of Photomonth, Photo10, off site exhibitions program.
Photographic imagery projected from suitcase onto wall above bunk bed, 2010.
Untitled, Room 19. Fibre based prints, cotton, glass and shoes, 2010.
Room 16, exhibition in progress, 23/10/10.