Preview: Basements Connected, at Basement Projects
Basement Projects, 30th July-14th August and 17th-25th September
Viewing 28th July, 18:00-21:00
Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith
Pictures by Tony Knox
Basement Projects started in 1996 when three artists living in the same building decided to make use of forgotten space. This year marks twenty years since then, so the curators, who have made use of Lottery, Arts Council and European Regional Development funding in their short history, are rightly reflecting on the history of their project.
The project ran, at first, for thirteen years before coming to an end in 2009 and having a seven year break in the lead up to the exhibition starting tomorrow; to give some context to that timeline, Basement Projects predate Liverpool Biennial by three years, having launched in ‘96.
Their return as part of the Biennial Fringe has roughly a third of the number of international artists in the Biennial, in just one exhibition. Four artists are based locally, with ten international artists in total. When I was originally told, I couldn’t quite get my head around it, thinking there was no way it could work without free falling into anarchy, but (despite the inherent anarchic subterranean nature of basement galleries) it works.
I had a brief tour from Susan Leask, one of the founding members of Basement Projects, while her counterparts busily applied the finishing touches to the exhibition, and while not everything was quite up on the bare-brick walls yet, something was coming together that paired with the rest of the Biennial-proper. Work focussing on Syria reflects the themes in Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian’s work (dotted around Liverpool biennial at various galleries), while local spaces are brought to light through film and location with the same intent as the Oratory or ABC cinema have been recently.
It’s an exhibition that deals with very popular themes, and will hopefully sum them up better than others have. Themes of community and culture, and how community culture is affected by modern life, are difficult ones to address properly, but the questions the show is asking seem to be the right ones.
A great deal has changed to the global landscape in terms of cultural exchange in the short time since their last exhibition here, so I’m looking forward to witnessing their finished product, in a space that, we shouldn’t forget, is not forgiving, or welcoming to creative ideas. A cellar is a place for storage rather than contemplation, and its takes confident work to break down the damp and restricting restrictions of a cellar’s history.
Basement launch their homecoming exhibition tomorrow between 18:00 and 21:00 at two locations. The exhibition runs until 14th August, and again until 25th September 2016. Full details can be found here.