Metroland Cultures announces 'Making the Room Sing', a community-led commission with Asian Women's Resource Centre

16 January 2023

Participants from Asian Women's Resource Centre who collaborated with artists Amanda Camenisch and Therese Westin.

20 January – 18 February 2023 at Metroland Studio, 91 Kilburn Square, NW6 6PS, London

Metroland Cultures presents Making The Room Sing, an exhibition by artists Amanda Camenisch and Therese Westin developed in collaboration with a group of women from the Asian Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC) as part of the Brent Biennial 2022, In the House of my Love.

Working with sound, textiles, sculpture and poetry as art-making and healing practices, Camenisch and Westin develop collaborative projects that centre the experiences of its participants through a trauma-informed approach. Focusing on facilitating holistic spaces and experiences that become conduits for artistic expression, the artists tend to both individual and collective needs in the process of developing projects and creating artworks with various private and public outcomes.

AWRC is a grassroots “led by and for” charity specialising in delivering services for black and minority ethnic women experiencing domestic abuse. Established in 1980 in Brent, they offer culturally sensitive practical and emotional support in 24 languages, including information on housing, legal advice, access to counselling and advocacy.

Since late 2021, AWRC has been working closely with Metroland Cultures on one of four community-led commissions as part of the Brent Biennial 2022, titled In the House of My Love. Responding to a brief that was collaboratively written as a response to the desires of staff members and service users with support of artist and facilitator A’lshah Waheed, Camenisch and Westin were selected by the AWRC to develop and deliver a series of workshops for the production of a collective artwork to be installed permanently at their safe house based in Harlesden, Brent.

The selected project, titled Making The Room Sing, sought to honour the safe space that AWRC has created throughout its forty year history by providing support, safety and hospitality for women in Brent and beyond. Bringing together textiles, sculpture, instruments and sound produced collaboratively with a group of women over six months, the exhibition at Metroland Cultures is an opportunity to showcase the culmination of this co-creative practice and to highlight the need for empowerment and healing for women experiencing the hostility of domestic and gender-based violence.

Central to the installation will be a textile piece woven with self-made textiles and materials. Containing symbols, images and stories that have appeared in guided meditations, art-making exercises and letter writing, the wall piece brings together the women’s dreams and wishes through the visual and metaphorical motif of a communal garden. Additional elements will be added to the final installed work at AWRC, including two sections of 11 moonstone beads each featuring 11 affirmations brought forward by the women. Alongside the soft ringing of clay bells hanging at the bottom of the textile, the artists and women have imagined that the artwork will function as a sort of altarpiece; an on-going site for meditation and healing.

Accompanying the textile work will be a series of sculptures, including four elemental harps fabricated from the looms that were used for the production of the altarpiece. The instruments will be activated during two workshops with the public over the duration of the exhibition, recreating some of the exercises that were run with the women to hold space and create synergy in the group. Poetry and drawings resulting from these sessions also feature as part of the installation in a book and projected on a wall; sound compositions can be listened to while walking through the exhibition or sitting down on a bespoke sound healing bench in the shape of a lying woman, inviting both rest and contemplation.

Also hung on the walls, six silk robes will allude to the bodies that have carried them and those that may carry them going forward, invoking the women who participated in the production of the artworks and those who might benefit from them in the future. Following the exhibition, the textile work and bench will be permanently housed at AWRC’s newly-refurbished building. The instruments and robes will continue to facilitate opportunities for performances and healing sessions at AWRC and with other groups who on-goingly experience various hostile environments.

The second edition of the Brent Biennial, titled In the House of my Love (8 July – 11 September 2022), welcomed over 90,000 visitors at 12 venues across Willesden, Harlesden and Kilburn showing 12 new art commissions by 17 artists. The project brought together artists and community groups whose works explore the many meanings of homemaking. The Biennial asked how, and why, the act of making home can be a form of resistance and survival within the context of hostile environments—including those of racism, homophobia, ableism, climate catastrophe and political austerity.

In the House of my Love was also an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the gifts brought forward by communities in the borough, through a collaborative commissioning process with four organisations that have been identified as part of the Brent Biennial 2022 project, including: Asian Women’s Resource Centre, Sufra Foodbank and Kitchen North West London, Young Roots and Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons' Trust.

Most of the community-led commissions extend the Biennial dates and are being realised in the long-term life of Metroland Cultures as an organisation. The projects are being developed and chosen in consultation with communities in the borough through a series of facilitated workshops by artists to identify the desires of the community groups and their constituents; the possibilities that can be brought forward when working with artists; and the offerings that may be possible in the context of the Biennial and beyond.

The Brent Biennial 2022 has been curated by Eliel Jones, in collaboration with a curatorial committee comprised of artists Adam Farah, Abbas Zahedi and Jamila Prowse. To find out more, click here.

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