by Rahul KumarAug 02, 2022
The second edition of the Brent Biennial titled In the House of my Love is inspired by a line in Ezra Green's A Poem to the Nationalist Marcher (for the Queer People of Warsaw). The Brent Biennial brings Queer joy to the northwest London district of Brent, home to Wembley Stadium, and while it is still somewhat more under-the-radar, it tackles an essential issue. In the House of My Love is a celebration of home, with Jamaican takeout, a reggae chorus, and a group of young LGBTQIA+ friends bonding in difficult circumstances. The biennial features projects by visual artists Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah, Rasheed Araeen, Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Rebecca Bellantoni, Ed Webb-Ingall, Linett Kamala, Mahmoud Khaled, and Zinzi Minott. Curated by Eliel Jones, this iteration brings together artists and community organisations whose work investigates the different meanings of homemaking: exploring how, and why, the act of making a home may be a form of resistance and survival within the backdrop of hostile surroundings such as racism, homophobia, ableism, climatic disaster, and political austerity.
The Biennial is held at three clustered locations within the Brent district namely - Kilburn, Willesden, and Harlesden. It features the works of 12 artists displayed in 10 different venues and public areas. Shenece Oretha presents In Counter Harmony at The Tin Tabernacle, a corrugated metal chapel built in Kilburn in the mid-nineteenth century. Oretha's commissioned project focuses on the sounds and tales of multipurpose community spaces, including those of the Tabernacle's past, other Brent sites, and the artist's background in London community halls.
Mohammed Zaahidur Rahman, an artist, illustrator, and zine-maker, is exhibiting Unfurnished, a new series of paintings that explore questions of belonging through the lens of love and relationships, horticulture and agriculture, art, the act of crossing borders, resistance, and food, at Kingsgate Project Space in Kilburn. The contribution by Mahmoud Khaled is borrowed from his previous work, Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man, an installation that imagines the imaginary existence of a gay Egyptian man living in exile in Turkey. Khaled's installation, which emphasises the horror of political persecution, poignantly reminds us that no human life is ever unlawful.
Katarzyna Perlak exhibit is a set of Pajaki sculptures in St Matthew's Church in Willesden, which are traditional Polish paper chandeliers hung to defend the home. The Pajakis are shown with My Grandma Doilies, a collection of tablecloths produced by and inherited from the artist's late grandmother and hand-embroidered by the artist with slogans and motifs reflecting on matrilineal inheritance, bereavement, and Queer identity. The artist and choreographer Alex Baczynski-Jenkins presents a newly commissioned version of his ongoing video project, You are a guest now, which weaves together personal moments from the lives of four artists and friends in Warsaw to provide a lyrical depiction of Queer life, friendship, performance, and love surviving in Poland despite and in defiance of the state's antagonism towards LBGTQIA+ groups.
Arwa Aburawa and Turab Shah present I Carry it With Me Everywhere at Design Works in Harlesden. The video investigates how migration causes moments of rupture from which new understandings of home and belonging might develop, weaving together the lives of three protagonists as they confront inherited concepts of belonging. It is informed by interviews with first-generation migrants. Additionally, in Metroland Studios in Kilburn, Rebecca Bellantoni presents the second chapter of her ongoing trilogy project C.R.Y: Concrete Regenerative Yearnings. Also, visitors get to see Linett Kamala's work, Disya Dancehall, inspired by the lived experiences of people who were active in the golden era of dancehall in northwest London (1985-2000).
Zinzi Minott presents Fi Dem, a durational body of work that results in a new video piece being created yearly on the anniversary of the Empire Windrush arrival in the United Kingdom on June 22nd, 1948, at Newman Catholic College in Harlesden. Along with Fi Dem I-V, Minott presents an iteration of Black on Black, a solo dance piece that addresses Queerness, Blackness, and the body as an archive, during the Biennial's last weekend. Through the gruelling processes of repetition and length, the work, which is made up of movement phrases provided to the artist by a wide network of Black dancers and artists, explores dance as a kind of labour and the limits of the body. This in turn sparks a nuanced dialogue that pays attention to the lived and embodied intersections of race, class, and gender in the wake of British colonialism.
Sarah Rose presents a multi-channel sound installation in Roundwood Park, which takes as its point of departure the letters written between the American writer and conservationist Rachel Carson and her friend and lover Dorothy Freeman. Installed inside a disused bowling green room in the park, An Open Letter of Many Replies invites visitors to consider the permeability of borders and the Queer ecologies that thrive beneath, between, and through the enclosure.
Four public artworks by Brent-based and related artists are displayed on billboards around the Brent and Clapham boroughs. Sadia Pineda Hameed, a visual artist, has created a new commission that includes interwoven conversations that bring together moments of recognition and rupture between languages, cultures, and generations. The artist provides four iterations of a hybrid language, written phonetically in Urdu script, as an experiment in hybridisation as a technique for home-making.
A must-see, The Dolls are two newly-commissioned photos of Black Queer friends ("sistahs") taken at home in Brent by Theo White, shamelessly capturing and expressing Black Queer friendship, desire, and love in these images. Jorrell Bonnick has opted to edit his existing artworks into a single landscape of recurring patterns, resulting in a vibrant colour scape that covers the whole surface of the billboard. Kamile Ofoeme has created a series of billboards in the form of supermarket commercials, displaying foods associated with the Black diasporic population, overlaid with dictionary meanings and phonetic guidelines for their pronunciation. The artist juxtaposes these meals with the myriad connected histories and legacies of migration that have shaped their presence in the UK in this juxtaposition of verbal and visual connotations.
Curator Eliel Jones said in an official statement, “The artists and community groups that have been invited to participate in the second edition of the Brent Biennial all speak in various ways to the immigrant, Queer and feminist traditions that have for a long time nurtured a sense of home in Brent and beyond. These are practices that are built within friendship, chosen families, love and collaboration, and they offer resolute antidotes to patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalist, heteronormative and ableist systems of power.”
The Brent Biennial began on July 8, 2022, and it will go on till September 11, 2022.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))