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Nelly Ben Hayoun

Space in Between

Dalston war bunker turns into art space when creative collective Space in Between launches its 'Where Beats This Human Heart' exhibition

Imagine Dalston circa 1943. The air raid siren has sounded and you’re running for your life, running underground where you will be safe from the bombs that were being dropped on East London nightly. If you had been running for safety you would have made your way to a small air raid shelter situated opposite the new Dalston Junction overground Station. What would you do if you found such a place now? Well, The Space In Between, a curatorial collective consisting of Hannah Hooks, Ida Champion and Laura McFarlane are putting on the installation inspired by the space ‘Where Beats the Human Heart’ in the Dalston Bunker with artists Luke Montgomery, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Sandy Smith, William Mackrell and Xavier Poultney. The show, which previews today, uses this unique space to house a group of installations whist embracing the bunkers unavoidable and wonderful history. Dazed met with Hannah Hooks for a trip under Dalstons’ Print House on Ashwin Street to get a feel for this wonderful space and find out more about the The Space In Between and the upcoming show.

Dazed Digital: So how did The Space In Between come about?
Hannah Hooks: Space In Between is an arts collective run by Laura McFarlane and Ida Champion and I. The three of us went to school together and after going our separate ways to study Fine Art, Laura and Hannah, while Ida studied English Literature and History of Art. We reconvened in London, realising we a shared belief in exhibiting the work of young artists, and we acted on it. The original idea was to have one permanent space and to operate as a sort of incubator for a group of artists, but since launching in February 2009 we’ve evolved to be more of an events-led platform for emerging artists. I suppose this is because we haven’t had a permanent space for over a year now, but it’s been an exciting way of working, and a natural progression we feel.

The reactive nature of dealing with unique spaces, sometimes at very short notice, is that you and the artists work in very close contact, together overcoming the challenges and idiosyncrasies that circumstance delivers. We have to select artists who are free and able to adapt to a given space, and whose work is going to best suit the space and the emergent theme. This has been a challenge for us curatorially but has helped us to discover what works and as well as some brilliant new artists. We always have shows in mind that are trying to find the right space for but our original idea to pioneer a group of younger artists, from one space, has evolved in to something much bigger and more exciting.

DD: How did you discover the Dalston bunker?
Hannah Hooks: We found out about the bunker through some friends who were organising a show of final year MA students from London art schools last month. They asked us to get involved with their show but it turned out that they didn’t really need us for more than a bit of practical advice. As soon as we saw the space though, we were all agreed that we wanted to do our own project here. We had a discussion and brought a few of our artists to see the space… and the project begun. It’s such an amazing and unique place.

DD: How did you decide on the WWII theme for the show, did you explore other options despite the bunker's history?
Hannah Hooks: The show doesn’t have a WWII theme. We asked the artists to respond to the space, as it is most of them are responding to its current state; as a dark, damp and derelict chamber… However, its history is also very interesting and inspiring, and it’s hard to ignore that when you are down here. So I think there are elements of its history creeping through in the work – but the theme is not WWII-focused. The title, 'Where Beats This Human Heart', is a reminder of the beating of the hearts which sheltered here during the blitz in war-time London, but it’s also indicative of the chambers of this place and of bringing life back to it as it’s only very recently been opened again. The experience, when you’re here on your own, is one of silence and stillness. The place feels forgotten, and makes you feel as though you’ve just discovered it by accident. Our artists are pulling it out of the darkness with their work, in a way. Keats’ Hyperion springs to mind - God of Light triumphing as he brings darkness back to light.

DD: What did you consider when choosing the artists for the show?
Hannah Hooks: We chose artists who we knew would be responsive to the space, and who tend to make large scale and monumental work. We wanted artists who were going to get in here and run wild! Because of the nature of this place, the leaky ceiling, water under foot, no lights or clean walls, we had to choose artists who were really going to bring the place alive. We’ve worked with Sandy, Luke and Xavier before and so we knew that they would be ideal, and we had a vague idea of what they might produce. Will and Nelly were on our radar and we were discussing future shows with them so when the bunker became a reality and we realised the nature of their work suited the show it all just all came together. They’re a really exciting group of artists, working with new materials and concepts, and I think the show is going to be epic.

DD: What can be expected from the artists involved?
Hannah Hooks: For all of the artists this show has been a chance to experiment, as well as somewhere for them to put large (in terms of scale, theme and ambition) ideas into practice.

The exhibition runs 19 June - June 23, open daily 2-6pm, with a preview on 18 June