Precarity Centre: SW4 7JR

Organised by They Are Here

If a former chapel is now a gallery, what might it become next? Artist collective They Are Here transformed Studio Voltaire into Precarity Centre – a social project offering free workshops and activities. Precarity Centre was an experiment in what a gallery can be and what might take place there.

Precarity Centre was an itinerant, conceptual framework for an interdisciplinary programme of talks, workshops and performances, exploring and mitigating against precarity.[1]

[1] Precarity is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.

Precarity Centre was also an experiment in social space, seeding interaction between local precarious groups, the arts community and those who work in the public sector. The project echoed the multi–layered activities of community centres, which continue to suffer disinvestment across London and the wider UK. Precarity Centre was intended to be relevant to local concerns, whilst bridging diverse forms of inquiry and knowledge.

They Are Here stressed that this project was not a substitute for public services or organised campaigning to support public services. Flyers and literature advertising existing social support work was displayed on site, working with neighbourhood groups to amplify their activities.

All events were free, and welcomed all on a drop in basis.

Images courtesy of James Allan.

Full programme of events


Programme of events

Precarity Centre launch and live performance
Wednesday 2 August 2017, 7–9pm

With live performances from They Are Here and Mx World. They Are Here presented 24 Bubbles / 24 Statements, a new performance in collaboration with professional bubble blower Wojciech Solarski. Lewisham–based composer Mx World performed her atmospheric, experimental pop music, combining traditional methods of songwriting with sampling, sound collage and audio processing techniques.

Movement workshop for senior citizens
Thursday 3 August 2017, 12–1pm

Led by dancer and dance therapist Thiru Seelan, the workshop comprised of a series of simple and playful exercises that encouraged self-reflection through movement and music. With no experience necessary, the workshop welcomed dancers of all abilities.

Shared lunch
Thursday 3 August 2017, 1–2pm

A free communal lunch was given, which was open to all and provided a space for conversation.

Discussion: Mental Health and the Metropolis
Thursday 3 August 2017, 3–5pm

Facilitated by psychotherapist and artist Noemi Lakmaier, this discussion focused on the non–pharmaceutical strategies we can consider to support our mental health, especially in an urban context.

Workshop: An introduction to Permaculture
Thursday 3 August 2017, 6.30–8pm
Led by Graham Burnett, this workshop introduced the concept of permaculture, an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

Movement workshop
Friday 4 August 2017, 12–1pm

Led by dancer and dance therapist Thiru Seelan, the workshop was comprised of a series of simple and playful exercises that encouraged self-reflection through movement and music.With no experience necessary, the workshop welcomed dancers of all abilities.

Shared lunch
Friday 4 August 2017, 1–2pm

A free communal lunch was given, which was open to all and provided a space for conversation.

Reading group: Fearless Speech by Michel Foucault
Friday 4 August 2017, 3–5pm

During this reading group, They Are Here facilitated a discussion around six lectures delivered by Michel Foucault whilst he was teaching at Berkeley in Autumn 1983.

“The expression ‘fearless speech’ is a rough translation of the Greek parrhesia, which designates those who take a risk to tell the truth; the citizen who has the moral qualities required to speak the truth, even if it differs from what the majority of people believe and faces danger for speaking it.”

 

Edible Intervention: Democratic Soup in partnership with East European Resource Centre
Friday 4 August 2017, 6–8pm

They Are Here invited gallery visitors to participate in the making of a traditional Polish soup, devised and facilitated by artist Magda Fabianczyk. Each attendee was invited to bring an ingredient with them for a collective negotiation of what goes in the dish. This will be a metaphorical starting point for a discussion around Brexit and the EU migrant voice within the debates, whilst eating the soup we have made.

East European Resource Centre is a charity that provides information, support and advice to immigrants from Eastern Europe. They give voice and resources to EE migrants who experience poverty, exploitation and social exclusion in order to help them to make better choices about their lives and realise their potential as equal members of their communities.

Movement workshop
Saturday 5 August 2017, 12–1pm

Led by dancer and dance therapist Thiru Seelan, the workshop comprised of a series of simple and playful exercises that encouraged self–reflection through movement and music.  With no experience necessary, the workshop welcomed dancers of all abilities.

Shared lunch
Saturday 5 August 2017, 1–2pm

A free communal lunch was given, which was open to all and provided a space for conversation.

Workshop: Self defence for beginners – women’s class
Saturday 5 August 2017, 3–5pm

This workshop introduced simple, effective personal safety strategies that do not rely solely on physical strength. The session was led by martial artists and sports coach Jared Morrison, who has over 15 years experience in various disciplines and self-defence systems, including Judo, BJJ, Karate, 9–Attitudes (Dynamis) and Functional Edge MMA (Tony Torres). With no experience necessary, the workshop welcomed people of all abilities.

Discussion: How can we rethink social housing in London?
Saturday 5 August 2017, 6–7.30pm
Facilitated by Apparata (Nicholas Lobo Brennan & Astrid Smitham), Dr. Paul Watt and Sahra Hersi.

Apparata is a studio for architecture, design and research. They are currently working on an affordable housing scheme with integrated studios for artists in Barking, East London. Dr. Paul Watt is a Reader in Urban Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. He has published widely on social housing, urban regeneration, gentrification and homelessness. He is co-editor of two forthcoming books: Social Housing and Urban Renewal: A Cross-National Perspective (Emerald, 2017) and London 2012 and the Post-Olympic City: A Hollow Legacy? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Paul is also a housing campaigner. Sahra Hersi has recently graduated from the Royal College of Art Architecture programme. She is is co-founder of Studio Somalia, a collective of British-Somali designers with a focus on cultural education and architectural heritage.

Repair Café
Sunday 6 August 2017, 12–6pm

The gallery was transformed into the Repair Café, with visitors being asked to bring broken objects to be fixed. Working with volunteer specialists, the items were repaired, where possible, as part of a collective learning process.

The Repair Café was initiated by Martine Postma, who organised the very first iteration in Amsterdam on 18 October 2009.

Shared lunch
Sunday 6 August 2017, 1-2pm

A free communal lunch was given, which was open to all and provided a space for conversation.

About the artists

They Are Here (f. 2006) is a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker and Harun Morrison. They are currently based in London and on the River Lea. They Are Here work across media and types of site, particularly civic spaces. Institutions they have developed or presented work with include: CCA Glasgow, Furtherfield, Grand Union, Konsthall C (Stockholm), Southbank Centre, South London Gallery, STUK (Leuven, Belgium) and Tate Modern.

Precarity Centre is the first in a series of artworks and interventions by They Are Here during In Residence their yearlong residency at Studio Voltaire. The artists aim to engage with a number of social conditions specific to the gallery’s locality as well as its neighbouring boroughs.

The first iteration of Precarity Centre was commissioned by Grand Union, Birmingham and realised in Spring 2016.

Please get in touch should you have any questions about the programme