The Sliding House
This weekend saw the official launch of a new work of public art in our area, The Sliding House, or “From the knees of my nose, to the belly of my toes’ to give its official title. Alex Chinneck is an artist from Hackney who likes to manipulate solid state materials to reimagine them in ways that challenge expectations and understanding. His previous works have included a melting wall, a circular chimney that blows smoke back into itself, and replacing the panes of glass in a disused warehouse to make them all identically broken. His installations have predominantly been based in London, but with bigger ambitions, he’s trying somewhere new and has now moved his focus to Margate due to its burgeoning reputation in the arts community thanks to the Turner ContemporaryArt Gallery.
A cherry-picker was available to transport the viewing public to the rooftops, giving a ‘view from above’ perspective of the artwork which was a unique opportunity I didn’t want to miss. So we took lots of photos while we waited our turn and then Bunny and I whizzed up high to look down on the sliding house.
This current installation has involved collaborating with the local council, architects and engineers to bring into being the sliding facade on a council-owned house that has stood empty for over a decade. It took less than a month to build and is found at the bottom of Godwin Road in Cliftonville, which is a deprived part of Margate in East Kent. The area is famed for its high unemployment, empty shops and immigration problems. The road it is in consists mainly of bedsits and flats in former hotel and bed & breakfast accommodation. Yet, what struck me most about this artwork was its accessibility to those that may not usually be interested in art. This installation is literally living among a demographic least likely to go looking for art per se. The children in the street were thrilled to have the focus on their area, excitedly taking turns to go up in the cherry picker and talk to those running the event. They will go to school this week and tell their friends about the sliding house in their road, and without realising it, will have had their first brush with an original work of art. Art that is not stuffy and inaccessible, but art that is real and exciting.
Before we left, I was able to chat to Alex about his work and he revealed that there will be two upside down houses appearing near to the Blackfriars Bridge in London within the next month. If we go to London during the half-term break, I will be making sure we head in that direction to see it. And if you’re in East Kent, this is well worth a detour to see too.
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