The Open Studios at Balfron Tower event, organised by Bow Arts as part of Balfron Season, takes place across the weekend of 20-21 September, from 11am-6pm, to coincide with London Open House weekend. Balfron Season is a unique programme of events organised by Bow Arts, situated in and around the Grade II listed Balfron Tower.
Connected by a shared interest in the history and legacy of Balfron Tower, Alan McFetridge, Sinéad Bligh, and CCW PhD student James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous present Flat 15 and Flat 12 of Ernö Goldfinger’s iconic high rise building. It is within this unique situation and space that the artists consider the importance of who has inhabited the building, who is present in the spaces now, and who will utilise this environment in the future. Through a combined presentation, the artists prompt an open discussion of the social, political, economic and personal implications of displacement and presence within this particular site and community. Inhabiting two vacated flats that, though mirrored, imply visibly different histories, their interventions open up a space for interaction, discussion and consideration located at the heart of Balfron Tower itself.
Completed in 1967 in Poplar, East London, the 26 storey Modernist structure of Balfron Tower consists of 136 flats and 10 maisonettes designated for habitation by social housing tenants. After being granted Grade II listing in March 1996, ownership was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to Poplar HARCA Housing Association in 2007. At the start of the transfer process, the building was designated for extensive refurbishment, indicating the beginning of the gradual rehousing of the community. In the intervening years Bow Arts Trust has provided work/live spaces for artists at Balfron Tower and managed education, environmental and cultural work in the local community. In 2014 the few remaining residents, and the temporary community of artists and property guardians who have inhabited the Balfron Tower over the past 4 four years, will depart in order to make way for the imminent refurbishment of this iconic building.
Since completing the MA Fine Art course at Chelsea in 2012, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous have undertaken a self-initiated work/live residency at Balfron Tower in London. Occupying two successive flats as property guardians, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous have spent the last two years amassing a living archive. At the invitation of Bow Arts Trust and in response to The Sensation of Space1 essays published by Ernö Goldfinger, architect of Balfron Tower, Alan McFetridge, Harriet Cooper, Sinead Bligh, James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous are co-hosting this Open Studios event. This month two comparative selections from the archive are distributed simultaneously from Flat 15 and 12 as free newspapers. The act of publishing what would otherwise remain hidden offers a much needed critique of life as a property guardian in London. Intended to spark debate, this circulation seeks to challenge current legislation and ultimately to affect change in the world. 2014 also witnessed the donation of all the work James Lander and those who wish to remain anonymous produced, as well as acquired from other artists over the previous fifteen years. The invisible archive, to which the donation refers, in tandem with the living archive, form the basis for Lander’s practice-based PhD. His current research is motivated by and seeks to reformulate the dynamic between altruism, psychological egoism and the hintergedanke ‘ulterior motive.’2
1Goldfinger, E. (1941) The Sensation of Space. The Architectural Review, Nov, pp.129-131.
2 Weiss, E. (1995) Pons-Kompaktwörterbuch Englisch – Deutsch. Stuttgart: Klett Verlag für Wissen und Bildung. p.214