Metroland Cohort: Peer-to-Peer, our new bi-annual artist support programme.
The cohort was brought together during the Brent Biennial: In the House of My Love, as a response to the hostile environment artists are facing due to scarce financial support, limited opportunities for peer contact and difficulty gaining visibility across the Borough. We invited artists of any age with a connection to Brent to apply via open call to the programme, which comprised ten cohort learning sessions, a £2,500 non-restricted bursary, mentoring, and a group project budget.
This year's programme was designed and facilitated by Kit Edwards, Assistant Curator of the Brent Biennial 2022: In the House of My Love.
The ten artists selected to participate in the first iteration of Metroland Cohort: Peer-to-Peer are Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin, Bill Daggs, Heiba Lamara, Yasmin Nicholas, James Jordan Johnson, Becky Lyon, Nilik Khimani, Bediah, Arsalan Isa, and Dita Hashi.
Since July 2022, the cohort has been meeting every other week for a series of talks, workshops, and discussions. Over ten sessions an incredible group of artists, curators, gallerists and writers have contributed to the programme, including Ain Bailey, Jamila Prowse, Rebecca Bellantoni, Adam Farah, Sally Moussawi of Not/Nowhere, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Abbas Zahedi, Louise Shelley, Rozsa Farkas, Languid Hands, Ellie Grieg and Narbi Price.
Workshops have covered Creative Access, Participatory Budgeting and Consensus Decision Making, Introducing Performance, and Writing about Your Practice. Every other week the cohort has led sharing sessions on a subject/text/artwork/idea of their choice, creating a space of mutual learning to cultivate their collective interests.
During their time together the cohort has been thinking through strategies of collective survival and the realisation of their group project. In December the group will gather for a retreat at the Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre in Liverpool to share practices/tactics/offerings, documenting the process in a zine which will be gifted to the Brent community in early 2023.
Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin is an artist of multiple diaspora who researches what it means to 'be' through gentle and meditative practice. She works poetically with object, language, print, and interaction to craft a contemporary philosophy inspired by her spirituality, heritage, and rituals for solace. She creates with second-hand objects, biodegradable materials, ephemera, and renewable energy.
Recent presentations of her work include exhibitions at Gallery 31, Somerset House (2022), Harlesden High Street (2021), the South London Gallery (2020), and the Freud Museum (2020). She is an Associate Lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts.
Bill Daggs (b. London) is an artist / archiver / musiker, working across disciplines from his London studio. His rhythmic investigations involve, though are not limited to, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, moving image, text and sonic composition.
Bill will be showing works at the South London Gallery as part of New Contemporaries 2022 on December 8th.
Heiba Lamara is an interdisciplinary artist-researcher who uses zine-making and self-publishing as a disruptive methodological and material practice to think across disciplines, canons and communities. Through an ecosystem of iterative projects and work placements she is exploring the kinship between the library, the archive, the kitchen and the garden as connected sites of learning, labour and extended embodiment.
She was recently awarded the Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant supporting her oral history research into diasporic North African road trips throughout the 90s which will be released as a publication next year. She is Assistant Editor of@oomkzine a decade-long zine and a publishing collective and a co-founder of@rabbitsroadpress.
Yasmin Nicholas grew up and lives in North West London. She is third generation Caribbean (Dominican and St Lucian descent). Nicholas’ work consists of a mixed media including poetry, photography, film and sowing, accounts of daily life, drawing attention to particular experiences, identity, race and diaspora and Caribbean culture. She also uses the presence of her ancestors within her film work. This imagery comes with a fantasy type spectre who represents an ancestor in a traditional ‘Wob’, a dress dating back to the 18th Century due to French and English colonies. In addition to the influence of linguistic identities,
Nicholas’ work includes as well a play on language including the fusion of the ‘dominance’ of English and the ‘domestic’ of Kwéyòl, which is spoken in various Caribbean countries including Dominica and St Lucia. Also using the image of ‘Breadfruit’, a fruit used as a Caribbean delicacy as a metaphor, which focuses on the condition of language. She was commissioned for the Brent Biennial 2020 producing the work,The Children of the Sugar, which centred the personal and collective histories that form Brent’s identity, and was shared on public signage boards, the windows of local businesses and bus stops throughout the borough.
James Jordan Johnson
James Jordan Johnson is an artist-researcher (b.1997, London) based in Margate working within performance and sculpture. His practice is concerned with the relationship between Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Diasporic material culture and performative histories. Thinking about the role memory plays in the political matters of citizenship, legibility, land and myth-making, he tends to ground his work within site-specific or public spaces, using topographical mapping, material and object activation.
Nilik Khimani is a British-Gujarati Indian Multi-Disciplinary Artist. He was born and raised in London where he lives and works. He considers the artistic medium to be a tool for potential conversation, as a type of therapy, one that need not be mastered, but used effectively.
More recently, working in painting, he is interested in deconstructing its conventional role of storytelling, as analogous to the way a constructed society may be influenced by its environments. Interested in questioning the ideas surrounding otherness, Nilik’s work give us an offering, flirting between pain and pleasure. His works are placed somewhere in the tension between societal inheritances, and authenticity.
Often putting himself at the centre of his works, Nilik in-beds his own subjectivities, and experiences within the work. Reflected through his use of cultural references, he questions the differences between east and west; belonging to a collective, implicated, and governed society. Nilik has received recognition of by TATE, GQ India, and Verve India. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from University of the Arts London in 2017.
I am a photographer, filmmaker, and an aspiring creative director. The work I create is centred around those who share my experience as a first generation muslim woman living in London, and has two intentions: documentation and communication.
Growing up dyslexic and neurodivergent, I found myself left with big gaps in my memory. Naturally I created a coping mechanism to deal with this which started with ‘snapchat memories’ and overtime has manifested into film photography. Documenting the people and events around me and looking back at them has allowed me to recognise patterns in my life which I sometimes later turn into concepts to develop into projects.
Those projects allow me to communicate an experience, thought or feeling. Again, with a learning difficulty it was a struggle to communicate what was in my head verbally, so I found visual mediums the best way to do so. And once I've shared it with the world, those who share the same experience or have an understanding of it form a community around the piece of work, which I find to be incredible.
Arsalan Isa is a writer. He uses mixed mediums to explore behavioural analytics. Currently at work on his first novel, he is interested in the Mark of Cain, laziness, invisible histories, hygiene, secrets, chicken shops, body hair, psychotherapy, and camp resistance. He facilitates a poetry book club and research space, @scrambledtoastnpoems. Recent projects include the cult text, Dissociative Realism, 2022, Studio Voltaire, Asia Forum Venice Biennale, a collaboration on fried chicken sermons, 2022, Documenta 15, and the first EMDR self-experiment, Prelude to Trial 312, 2021, Cryptofiction.
Dita Hashi (b. 1998) is an artist-worker based between London and Paris. She works across moving image, painting and writing which she uses to explore the flesh, riots and (the impossibility of) citizenship. Her arts practice draws heavily on her training in the humanities and she views it as a counter space to the disciplinary, compartmentalized void of the academy. This underpins the nature of Dita's artistic work as both text driven and process-based.
Dita was awarded the ACME ALTERNATIVE PATHWAY AWARD 22/23 and is working towards a public outcome of her work. She is also recieved funding for and is currently working on writing project titled, PRELIMINARY NOTES ON BLACKNESS, NOTES ON عروبة, a collection of vignettes which explore class, indigeneity and statelessness which will be released next year.
Becky Lyon is an English x Jamaican artist and ‘artecologist’ exploring how art practice can re-body us back into the animate, vibrant, tangly messwork of our ecology. She is interested in ecology as an alternative curriculum or sourcebook for inhabiting the earth in ways that foster more co-flourishing and care and challenge the logic of "dominion" at the sour core of injustice.
Her work manifests in multiple forms from tactile installations to rituals, sensory artefacts and word-foolery. She hosts participatory gatherings in different forms from dead wood walking trails to summer-scented gatherings around the fire; touchy-feely seminars and reading groups that rip B|T|W|N THE L|AV|S. She is a ranger for London National Park City, supporting grassroots organisations and hopes to re-enchant the perception of urban ecology through creativity. An inherent discipline-smoosher, she has an MA Art & Science from Central Saint Martins and is studying MA Art & Ecology at Goldsmiths.
Currently she is creating an artist-led, schooled-by-the-forest for grown ups called Ground Provisions and convening the Squishy Collective exploring the intersection of touch x tactility x care.