Artists in Housing: book review

Jessie Brennan: Regeneration!, HS Projects

Nathan Coley: To the Bramley Family of Frestonia, Anomie Publishing

Jessie Brennan, A Fall of Ordinariness and Light (The Enabling Power), 2014, Graphite on paper, 55 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Jessie Brennan, A Fall of Ordinariness and Light (The Enabling Power), 2014, Graphite on paper, 55 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

This is a tale of two housing estates; or, rather, two artists working within two housing estates. One estate is a well-known Brutalist behemoth, Robin Hood Gardens in East London, designed by Allison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. The crumbling estate has repeatedly failed to gain listed status and, as soon as the last tenants leave, is set to finally be demolished. What is going up in its place, eventually, is what has become the neoliberal landscape norm: mixed-use residential/retail schemes backed by private developers. The second estate, Silchester (with the catchy sub-title ‘More West’), is in West London near Ladbroke Grove; it is newly built, due to open by the time this goes to print with over a hundred new apartments, ‘including’, as the developer’s website claims, ‘some five-bedroom homes for social rent’. Out of each estate has come an artist’s project, and two subsequent medium-sized publications: Jessie Brennan’s Regeneration! and Nathan Coley’s to the Bramley Family of Frestonia. Both provide glimpses of artists attempting to engage with problems of what housing represents at a time of change – musing on social ideals, gentrification and historical models – but what role they each take within that offers two very different outcomes. Continue reading