Rachael Crowther at 243 Luz, Margate
243 Luz was just about to close Managed Decline, its exhibition of London-based artist Rachael Crowther's work, for the last time before its run ended. The sun was teetering towards setting along Northdown Road in Margate, producing a delicious glow straight into the space, fortuitously but sumptuously framing a selection of severe, intimidating, somehow claustrophobic pieces. Even the sun couldn't bear to touch the sculptures, with their domineering presence shaking the viewer into submission.
As the sculptures bear such an intimidation, there is an alignment in their representation of a certain violence, a degradation, a social decimation. With four nonidentical but thematic pieces of repurposed steel against the vast whiteness of 243 Luz's small space, the body of work is something of an ode to the Heygate Estate in London's Elephant and Castle, a vast social housing estate built in the early 1970s and demolished over the course of three years starting in 2011, with much community furore at the displacing of over 3,000 people as the council picked up the call to further gentrification.
But there is violence everywhere, or so it feels. Whether we're experiencing it first, second or third hand, whether we are witnesses or survivors, it is enmeshed into our biological tapestry. The body keeps the score, and violence swims through us, as we try to contain its forces in ways that are palatable, presentable, demure, consumable.
So what happens when violence comes to your door? In the council's displacement of over 3,000 people, there emerges a systemic violence towards people in demographics that are often overlooked and silenced, the same demographics that were left to gauge the dangers of a deadly virus whilst others were able to work from home, and the same who will suffer the most from the erosion of the National Health Service. While it is not all doom and gloom within the cultures of the working classes in the UK, the nonchalant decision to literally bulldoze people's homes in the never-ending pursuit of capital cannot be ignored. The spatial sanctity of the home is apparently only respected through the means of legal ownership.
The aptness of viewing this body of work so close to World Homeless Day cannot be lost. Whether it is the looser experience of being priced out of an area you once called home, more formalised eviction procedures, or demolishing beloved homes, there emerges a strong link between what is perceived as the casual loss of a property and an insidious, state-sanctioned violence. It is refreshing to see an artist addressing these issues in a way that is engaging and arresting. While Managed Decline, with its title nodding to the financial sphere, is not the sort of exhibition that will draw in crowds due to an Instagrammable or clout-chasing aesthetic, those who do venture in will be struck by how powerful art can be as a tool of reminder and remembrance. The paranoia-inducing precarity of our homes, and our social webs, reverberates around 243 Luz, as well as an illustration of how our sense of self can be so deeply fragmented and compartmentalised by our surroundings, our privileges, and that which occurs when they fall away.