I came into the AHI Associate Leadership Programme with a strong desire to make an idea come to life. The kind of idea that doesn’t just lay dormant in your head, it rattles around, desperate to be made concrete, forcing you to see the world around you in a new light. That idea for me was ‘Hostile Interior Design’.
Hostile architecture has bothered me for such a long time. As a homelessness experienced person who navigates the world in a disabled body, the insidious behaviour modifications build into cities, designed to stop people bedding down are hard to ignore. Sloped seats are impossible for me to remain comfortable on, it’s difficult to navigate uneven paving or studded floors with a crutch and those humongous, ornate planters outside restaurants force me to push my rollator or mobility trolley along the road. Sleep is also a human right and stopping someone from sleeping is literally torture.
In ‘Hostile Interior Design’, my plan was to take all of the horrific elements of hostile architecture and bring them into a space that the majority of people are familiar with, a living room, (or non-living room in my case). Living rooms are portrayed on TV as welcoming, communal family spaces full of softness and comfort. I wanted to turn that trope on its head by turning this place of familial safety into a hostile, cold, sharp and lonely space.
With the support, encouragement and reputation of AHI, I was able to have a meeting with Theatre Deli in Sheffield, who very kindly provided me with a room in which to carry out my five-day placement, three days to build Hostile Interior Design and two performance days. Funds provided by AHI and an external generous benefactor allowed me and my amazing husband to stay in Sheffield for five days, to purchase all of the materials and furniture necessary and to be compensated for my time.
It was particularly important that my husband be able to accompany me as he is both my carer, doing things such as driving and carrying heavy suitcases, but I also relied on his superior carpentry skills in order to complete the necessary modifications to the existing pieces of furniture. They were all bought second-hand, having had a previous existence in the warm, loving, family environment that I sought to destroy.
The final pieces that we constructed were: a lamp covered in bird spikes with a blue bulb, a coat rack also covered in bird spikes with a CCTV camera attached which looked over the sofa, a telephone encased in chicken wire, a clock wrapped in barbed wire with CCTV stickers obscuring the face, a sofa bed with the soft cover removed and metal studs and bars added to the bare wooden base, a rug lined with jagged stones, a chair with its legs cut at an angle so that it leaned forward dramatically, a
magazine rack fitted with bars which prevented the magazine from being accessed, a CD player which only played annoying kids’ songs and a TV which only played white noise and was obscured by a large plant.
For the performance, the audience were forced to sit in silence whilst I slowly unravelled over the course of twenty minutes as I tried to carry out basic everyday tasks in the non-living room, from hanging up my jacket, to sitting comfortably, to accessing some entertainment. The audience were then invited to navigate the room themselves whilst I answered questions and we discussed hostile architecture in Sheffield and beyond.
Although the whole process proved to be quite an undertaking and a steep learning curve, from poster design, to press releases, to liaising with local charities, to setting up and managing ticketing, I was incredibly satisfied that I had finally scratched the itch of creating this piece. I also now have an installation to enter into any relevant open exhibitions back here in Manchester and an amazing video of my performance which has already proven to be incredibly useful in securing future work, so watch this space!
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