‘believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made’ - franz kafka
in my scepticism about the future of commercial developments i am certainly not alone. the artist william martin currently has an exhibition in the smallest gallery in soho, which questions this very issue. the show, called ‘liam’ after the fictitious tenant, raises the issue of habitation and belonging; basically a window display with a cultural concern, comprising household objects styled amongst martin’s ceramic works, hand painted fabric and an especially clever use of his signature chain decorating the frieze.
a ‘missing person’ notice acts as the exhibition’s narrative: apart from going missing without his medication, the 50 something year old liam is also forced to vacate his residence which has been sold to a property developer. certainly not a new tale but an appropriately familiar one.
the exhibit is a contextual installation, located in the rapidly changing urban environment of soho, london; it stands in rebellion against all the windows of consumerist stores, attempting to show the loss of the neighbourhood, the ceaseless gentrification which has become so prevalent in the more colourfully diverse quarters of large european cities.
as quentin crisp remarked of old compton street:
‘they’ve come a long way, all of it downhill…’
when i met william a few years ago, this type of urban transformation was already a concern of his; he mentioned the departure of artists studios, increased rent, popular chain stores and the changing face of shoreditch.
apart from the development issue, martin’s exhibition also invites us to look candidly inward at the personal space; the intimate relationship between our identity, our home and it’s contents, thus sharing that most valuable message:
that it’s generally a short step from what is important in our lives, to what threatens our existence.