Monday, 9 February 2009

Squatdoyouthink, 3 : Section6

The following interview is with Georgina, one of the founders of the squat gallery, Section6.

What is your definition of squatting?

Occupying a space that has been left to disuse and abandonment and bringing it back to life by utilising its potential.

How did you find the disused flat that Section6 operates from?

We found out about the flat through a friend who was living in the block.

Why use a disused flat than, say, a gallery?

After working for numerous galleries and art projects, I began to find traditional white cube spaces too predictable and sterile. I thought that creating a project within an unusual setting would add something different to the concept of displaying art.

Also with showing and making art not being easy on the pocket, I felt that it would take the pressure off finances and allow for more concentration on the art work itself.

Do you also squat yourself?

No, but I would really like to.

Would you consider living in a squat and also using it as an arts space?

Yes, definitely. I find the space where we have the art project to be a place to escape to from the outside world. We also have a good community living in our block; there are meetings and even a cafĂ© and shop in development with the other residents. I would love to live in and run an art space simultaneously, but I want to make sure that I do it at the right time when I am fully ready for the challenge. I know that it isn’t all fun and games and that it is a serious decision to make.

Were you aware of the legal situation before you broke in?

We were aware of the laws around squatting. We discovered behind the Sitex that the front door was open, so all we had to do was change the lock, secure the property and put up the Section 6. The squatters rights website has been a huge help but we have also received a lot of advice from the other residents which is great.

In terms of the squat, what has been the biggest achievement so far?

I think the biggest achievement is setting up Section6 Art Projects and having the first show. It was positive to see that all our hard work had paid off by having a maximum capacity crowd attend the private view. It was nice to hear people say how much they loved it and how they had thought of doing something similar in the past but had never had the motivation to do it.

It was also great to have the seal of approval from the other residents who quite enjoy the thought of having a gallery onsite. It has been nice that we have inspired a lot of people, which definitely makes the project worthwhile.

And the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was making sure that people saw the project, as it is a little off the beaten track compared to other art spaces. That was a little worrying but it all turned out really well.

What do you most fear for your gallery?

At the beginning, I feared things that were not really a threat as I didn’t know as much about squatting as I do now; I think it was just fear of the unknown. Also having to move on that was a fear at first, but now it is just the start of the adventure and when we have to move, we will just find another space and carry on.

How are relations with the neighbours and squatters?

On the night of our show there was a lady (I don’t know if she lived near by or what) who she took it upon herself to stand across the road and tell all our visitors that we weren’t nice people and that we did drugs. I found it quite funny as it obviously wasn’t true and we had never met her.

It makes me laugh that people can be so ignorant and put people into categories and attach stereotypes to them without even meeting them. If she had taking the time to come in enjoy the artwork have a drink and talk to us, she would have seen how wrong she was.

How do you keep watch on the gallery if you don't live there?

We have a rota so that someone is there all the time so that the space is kept safe.

For more information about Section6, please check out their Myspace page.