Last Thursday, December 1, I found myself at an event I never thought I'd ever walk in to - a gallery opening. Yes, that most pretentious of places, I ended up there.
How did I end up in such a place? Well, suffice it to say I needed some fresh inspiration from the art world, and a free exhibition opening (the complementary drinks definitely helped) was the best way to do it.
So there I was, pretending to look like I know what I was doing, taking actual notes on my experience on an actual notebook, feeling like a walking stereotype. It was when I could no longer look further into the works of art that I started talking with the people around me, and I slowly uncovered the story of the actual Brockley Street Festival (and the ENDS exhibition) :
When reading the above text, the first thing that sprang to mind is how territorial London is - your postcode does say something about you. It defines your morning commute (which is, let's be honest, awful no matter where you're at), it defines the local amenities and even who you're more likely to date - a person in Richmond (in west London) will hardly even consider dating someone who lives in Barking (east London). In certain areas, your postcode will define what football club you support - be it East Ham, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal or another club.
Eventually I started talking with the artist who created the artwork in the first photo - he even had a series of hands, each positioned in such a way that they spell 'ENDS'. The 'D' part struck me in particular, a clenched fist, raised in defiance. When I asked him about this, he admitted this had no political message but was rather him trying to turn hands into fonts.
Tim also explained the real background of the Brockley Street Art Festival to me - after the district won a competition hosted by the Londonist magazine, the festival has been (and still is) used in order to promote both international and global street artists, where people volunteer to have graffiti painted on their walls and shutters as works of art.
another piece of art that was obviously political was this:
While I did not manage to find the artist and ask them what led to this particular piece, I could only look back at 2016 and remember what London has been through this past year: the mayoral election in the spring, the EU referendum's vote in June and the sharp increase in racist attacks afterwards (which shocked the capital) and the increasing tension as the UK moves to an uncertain future. This made me think of London's history as a cosmopolitan city. The biggest difference between Amsterdam and London is the attitude people have towards eccentricities - in Amsterdam these are tolerated, as long as one keeps them to oneself. In London, one is encouraged to share them with the rest of the world. Anything goes in London (common sense is to be applied here naturally), and those who would seek to behave otherwise need to be reminded of that.
But I digress - following that, I found myself talking with someone about just how awkward a gallery opening event really is: you have your complimentary drink, you look at the painting, and you pretend you know what you're doing besides just experiencing it and noting what this makes you feel, until you stand there and think "Well, I looked at all the pieces... now what?" That's when I learned it - you talk with people. Not necessarily about the art, but you talk with them, as it truly helps the nervousness that is inevitable in such events (especially when it seems like so many people know each other very well).
In the end, attending the ENDS exhibition's opening night was a lot more light-hearted than I imagined it would be, and has reinvigorated me to go out and do more! Please go and check out Brockley Street Art Festival's website to see more about this great initiative.
Thanks for reading <3.