Essex Road II at Tintype gallery builds on their hugely popular inaugural event last year, with an array of leading artist-filmmakers providing compelling films.
The second edition of Tintype’s Essex Road Project is comprised of eight specially commissioned short films, each inspired by the North London street from which the project takes its name, and where the gallery is also located. With subjects ranging from Helen Benigson‘s visceral celebration of the female ritual of the hen night, to Uriel Orlow’s film based around playwright and author Joe Orton’s fictional alter ego Edna Walthorpe, filmed on his doorstep.
I had the chance to speak to Tintype director Teresa Grimes about the project.
Essex Road II follows the first edition of the project held in 2014; where did the impetus for the project come from?
We have this wonderfully huge window and the gallery is situated at a particularly busy junction – so there is always something to look at – something going on – street vignettes, snatches of conversation, odd sights. So I was sitting at my desk one day and the idea just came into my head. From the small seed has grown this big project. To do with a belief in cities, urban life and its multitude of stories. Also the particular character of Essex Road itself – which is not particularly smart, a real mixture of independent shops and business and very few chains. It is also because it is nearly a mile long so invites the filmic possibilities of a journey.
Why do you think the Essex Road Project (2014) was so successful and engaged such a variety of people?
I think if you show moving image art in an accessible way, people will watch it. The way we present the films – turning the window into a public screen – takes away that scary thing of walking into a gallery. Also the fact that the films were about the local area means people can identify with them.
To what extent does the variety of responses by the artist-filmmakers reflect the vibrancy of Essex Road?
In choosing really good artists you know – or can trust – that you’ll get great responses. The character of Essex Road is very important; a series of films about nearby Upper Street for instance, just doesn’t have the same appeal. Essex Road’s shabbiness and oddball character somehow invites a rich and complex level of aesthetic and conceptual responses.
The films are back-projected onto the gallery’s large window and can be viewed from the street; how do you think this viewing experience enriches / affects the project?
I was nervous last year that the winter weather might be a barrier. Because you are asking people to stand in the street in the cold to watch a 40 minute programme (though obviously they don’t have to watch it all the way through). In fact, people flocked to it and the public response was very positive. It engaged people who wouldn’t normally notice the gallery, let alone think of coming inside it. Memorably, I left the gallery one evening last year to find a couple discussing what a camera obscura is; two teenage girls who had seen Penny Woolcock filming the rubbish being blown along the street that formed the narrative of her film; plus two art students eating chips who had come specifically to watch the films. This vignette typifies the mixed audience the project attracted. People liked the unusual quality of the viewing experience. It succeeded in our aim of presenting moving image art in an unexpected place.
“I loved the whole process. I was on the top of a bus going past Tintype and there were about a dozen people standing on the pavement outside watching the films – it gave me a thrill.” (Penny Woolcock) The audience itself became part of the public spectacle.
Tintype also helps emerging artists develop their work critically and commercially; what do you feel the London art scene is like for emerging artists?
The cost of studio rents, the high cost of living in London, the fees, and the phasing out of art education in schools are all discouraging and present young artists with practical difficulties. However, there is a resilience and resourcefulness in the art world that I doubt will ever get beaten down. The number of galleries and artist-run project spaces constantly opening up point to a spirit of optimism. But simultaneously there is and will increasingly be, a move away from London to find cheaper places to live and work.
– Harry Dougall
Essex Road II can be viewed from the street seven days a week between 4 and 11pm, 10th December, 2015 – 16th January, 2016, Tintype Gallery, 107 Essex Road, London N1 2SL, UK
Films by: Jordan Baseman, Helen Benigson, Sebastian Buerkner, Jem Cohen, Ruth Maclennan, Melanie Manchot, Uriel Orlow, John Smith