Honking cars, garbage trucks, sirens of ambulances, trauma helicopters, continuous buzzing of the extraction systems and the constant smell of grilled chicken; for some a nuisance but for me it is home.
Whitechapel gives me everything I need; I live amidst different cultures that are gathered in this wonderful area, also nicknamed (with pride) Banglatown. I can eat amazing Biryani curry just around the corner, a local key and shoemaker repairs my clothes, my Algerian barber takes all the time in the world to cut my few hairs whilst he disapprovingly glances at my scruffy beard and I receive the suggestion to use mint leaves in a hot bath when buying fruit and vegetables. Even though I love my new neighbourhood, I always feel a sense of guilt. What do I give them? What can I provide for my neighbours? What I do is not a specific craft, nor does it have a specific purpose, at least not in their lives, which makes it difficult to explain it to them. Sometimes I try explaining it by using the Whitechapel Gallery as an example, but there seems to be a gap between this contemporary art space and local residents. Even during many visits I never seem to bump into my neighbours, a missed opportunity for both parties.
How can I make sure that contemporary art is available for everyone and make it part of his or her life, consciously or unconsciously? Luckily I found this wonderful, enormous window space opposite the Whitechapel Gallery and in the building where I study; The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, exactly at the entrance of Aldgate East. Every day when I passed by the window I wondered if it was possible to make this unconventional space into a temporary gallery. After a couple of months, thanks to the university and co-curator C. Ramos, Window Space, the only gallery in London that is open 24/7, a gallery without an entrance to be exact, is a fact. Since last August we have presented a new artist every single month on First Thursdays, together with a small publication.
During the installation of Part 1: John Henry Newton, I already noticed people who dwelled for a bit in front of the window, curious to see what was going on. Local businessmen looked strangely at the window during phone-calls, students scanned the different objects whilst waiting for friends, children pressed both hands against the window to have a closer look and my barber walked by and happily waved at me. The huge illuminated space attracts even more after dark, where the odd objects of Ana Genovés (Part 2) currently stand proudly in their contained casket.
In between the markets, drycleaner/key and shoemakers, the hospital and the curry-houses with the continuous buzzing of the extraction systems and constant smell of grilled chicken, there is now a gallery with contemporary art that is visible for everyone.
Part 3: Alice Anderson opens on Thursday 2nd of October with a performance by the artist between 7-9. For more info please check:
Image: Window Space by night. Alberto Balazs http://www.albertobalazs.com/
Thomas Stokmans (1986, Rotterdam) studied contemporary art at the University of Amsterdam before moving to London where he currently attends the MA Curating the Contemporary at The Cass – Whitechapel Gallery. He is the co-founder of Theunturned and is co-curator at Window Space, a temporary gallery on Whitechapel High Street. Thomas did internships at Prix de Rome (Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten) and De Hermitage Amsterdam.