Tag Archives: community

Museum of Everything

There are few places in London that keep me going back to them and Museum of Everything has definitely become one of them since it’s opened back in October. It’s located in Chalk Farm just off Regent Park Road, which is one of the most quaint streets in north London. The street serves as a good ‘afterparty’ location for the museum with its cosy cafes and little restaurants (one of my favourite discoveries is Troika, a medium-sized cafe restaurant that serves delicious Russian food, cakes and tea). When you pass the bridge at the top of the road remember to look to your right to see another sight – the lone standing group of skyscrapers against the bridge’s graffiti.

Museum of Everything is filled with what it calls ‘outsider art’, i.e. art created by people living outside of artist societies and anyone from jailbirds to janitors can be found among the artists. I really like the idea of ‘outsider art’ actually whether the museum is about it or not – in a way I think that seeing art created by those who didn’t have the luxury of being an artist is even more interesting than seeing the art conceived by those surrounded by it on a daily basis. Could it not also be more relevant to real life and have the chance of being more original since it’s not plugged into any art trends or pressures?

For these artists there are o studios, no press junkets, no art fairs, no magazine spreads. Instead there are treasure troves of untrained work, discovered under rocks, in basements and attics, its creators often unaware their art would ever see the light of day.

James Brett, the founder, says that the ‘outsider art’ is not much but a catchphrase and that the art that’s inside the museum is there because it’s just interesting. In our short phone conversation he also said that art is normally too pre-occupied with big ideas and that the art world might be too caught up in itself, perhaps like a patient who is so focused on analysing his problems that he becomes unable to overcome them.

The Museum of Everything is located in an old dairy factory and with its warehouse feeling really reminds me of Shunt in some ways. The rooms are filled with intricate decor, windy corridors and an impressive array of art pieces. The collection ranges from mosaic sculptures and miniscule illustrations to temples made out of transistors to somewhat resemble Lost City structures. The first exhibition includes the first public show of Henry Darger’s artwork and was curated by a group of renown artists from Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker to Eva Rothschild.

Entry to the museum and all events held there are free – in fact, the entire organisation runs on donation. The setup has its flaws though – the museum is not getting enough donations at the moment and might have to start charging for tickets in the future.

So anyway, hurry up, go see it, have some tea and be generous when you leave!

You can find the Museum of Everything on Twitter too at @Musevery.

[Image courtesy of Christoffer Rudquist]

Temporary School of Thought

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London has about 250 000 empty houses and about a quarter of them are squatted. According to the Empty Homes Agency there were 804 000 empty homes in the UK in April 1998. The recently famous case of squatting in London is that of  squatters living in an uber-posh £22.5 mln building in London’s Mayfair. They were known from the past for squatting a £6.25 mansion just around the corner from the current squat, which they left upon eviction. The owners of the house saw a Christmas tree there last December and from then the artist squatters are yet again facing moving on. Squatting is not exactly illegal in the UK. So long as the entry to a building is not forced and the inhabitants do not damage the property, they aren’t committing a criminal offense. Squatters actually enjoy legal protection where the owner must first take them to court in order to get them out of his or her property. If squatters stay at a place for 12 years they gain some ownership rights to the property.

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Whether the eviction threat was a push to open the squat to the public, I don’t know, but it’s sure an interesting case. The squat is currently hosting an open school that holds free lectures and classes in anything from book binding and Polish history to cooking and life drawing. The Temporary School of Thought is based on mutual sharing of skills and knowledge by anyone who’s willing to bring them there. According to the squatters themselves, it’s  ‘a space where people come together to share knowledge, non-descript skills, tactical imagination, creationism, passive action. A week long event of mutual learning, leftwing bias, free lectures, inert radicalism, workshops, discussion and film screenings.’ If you want to attend any classes, you can check the timetable here.

Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives

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PostSecret is an ongoing community art project created by Frank Warren in which people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. You can find both funny and horrifying secrets, but all are meant to be true and revealed for the first time. Since 2004 the blog has accumulated over 200.000 secrets and has recently won the MySpace Impact Award worth $10.000 that was subsequently donated to the HopeLine 1(800) – SUICIDE.

The project has created a hub of anonymous confession and a place where people can find themselves less alone with their secrets. PostSecret has supported those depressed and troubled through providing a meaningful outlet of emotional distress and allowing the audience to give support to those sending the secrets. The postcards are not only an artform, but also a way for people to let go of their secrets in a symbolic way through allowing their secrets to be seen by those who handle their cards, PostSecret staff and finally those who see them online. PostSecret has published 4 books, which so far are the only way the project supports itself financially.

Forget hotels

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I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel. I’m not a fan of handing money over to hotel corporations for a lot of reasons, though most of my reasons aren’t actually the fault of hotels themselves – I just happen to prefer the alternative places to stay when I go traveling. I have been a proud member of Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club networks for years now and have had so many positive experiences through them that I rarely feel the inspiration to go back to the old ways of staying places.

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The thing that stirred my attention recently is Airbed & Breakfast, a social network of people willing to share their homes for money in return. Prices are usually cheaper than those of hotels and as with Couchsurfing you get a chance to connect with locals that can keep you company or at least direct you to sites and events you may never find through guide books. You can rent a room, an entire place or simply stay on someone’s couch. In the US prices per night start at around 20 dollars and go as high as you wish – an average room will be around 80 dollars. You can view pictures of places and owners and also see the exact location on a Google map. Users are also reviewed by people who stay with them, which can build some credit of trust between members.

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The old question is whether you’ll be comfortable to stay at a stranger’s house or host one yourself – in principle there is no way to track the new users, but it so far seems like the site is creating a strong community of users that track one another. I’ve dealt with these questions myself before traveling to different countries via Couchsurfing and hosting travelers at my home last year, but after years of using the network I don’t have a single bad experience in my records.

Micro credit

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Micro credit is a form of facilitation of small loans to individuals in the developing world, who are otherwise considered not bankable and as such unable to obtain any loans in their own countries. I was first struck by the deep contrast of human existence and owning capabilities between Africa and the Western world when I read ‘The Shadow of the Sun’ by Ryszard Kapuscinski. It seemed utterly inconceivable that a family’s income could depend on a single pot, in which they would cook a dish and sell it to the fellow villagers for a small sum of money. The book inspired me to strive to understand more aspects of poverty and inequality both in Africa and worldwide.

Micro credit focuses on supporting forms of micro entrepreneurship and employment generation for mostly community based initiatives. The project started in Bangladesh, where it has enabled impoverished people to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate income, begin to build wealth, and at times exit poverty. The biggest micro-credit organisation is probably Kiva, which facilitated loans for nearly 2000 entrepreneurs. It’s strange to think that so much can depend on so little.