INTERVIEW: WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP
In Glasgow, three flatmates, Amy, Samantha and Shaheeda, have found a way to live and sleep with art by utilizing their living space for breathtaking exhibitions. REEK interviewed them about their radical, feminist art project.
Tell us about the concept behind ‘where people sleep’? How did it start? Why did it start?
AMY: Where People Sleep began out of a desire to take control and utilize our space but most importantly just to have fun and experiment. I was studying at Glasgow school of art and feeling let down by the course. My flatmates were both artists and we had these big cluttered hallways that were asking to be cleared out and used to show art, so it just made sense.
SHAHEEDA: It soon became clear that our street had been a sort of hub of creativity for goodness knows how long before we arrived. I’d just decided to drop out of a Social Sciences course at university, and I was really keen to fill the space in my life that had been taken up by uni and replace it with pushing creativity.
A month later, Sam joined us and was working towards expanding her portfolio, so we began to do up the flat and plan our first exhibition, grand opening: where people sleep gallery.
SAMANTHA: It was Amy’s suggestion to use the hall. We wanted to bring together artists from various genders, backgrounds, sexualities and race. Collaborating with our friends and artists in and around the community, it became a great way for us to bond and get to know how each other. I think it became something we all needed in our life in different ways, which is why it has become as big as it is now.
What has the response been so far?
AMY: It’s been heart warming. Our excitement and drive to keep doing events and shows is heightened by knowing that there’s a lot of people supporting us and keen to be involved. We’re surrounded by friends.
SHAHEEDA: Every time we hold an event, we consider expansion, we are more organised, more experienced and are taking on bigger challenges, which means we are always delivering more to the community! And people are noticing. One of the most special things for me is the delight I feel when I ask someone who I really admire to be involved with Where People Sleep.
Tell us about some of the more controversial artwork you’ve showcased at ‘where people sleep’?
SHAHEEDA: I don’t think I would like to label any piece of work that has been shown in Where People Sleep as ‘controversial’ as that is subjective to the viewer. However, I am very interested in showing work in our space that challenges the status quo, showing work by people that are under-represented in the mainstream art world, people who aren’t always given a voice or work that expresses a perspective on issues that aren’t always talked about openly.
SAMANTHA: Perhaps some of the work that we have exhibited, including Shaheeda’s and my own, might be controversial to others but not to us. Some of it does make people feel uncomfortable but it’s about changing people’s perceptions and understanding of the world. It’s having conversations and discussions and allowing the artist to express themselves in a way their voice might have not been heard before.
There seems to be a huge celebration of women in the exhibitions, tell us how this came about?
SHAHEEDA: I would say that the celebration of womanhood that comes through in our exhibitions naturally – it’s something that is simply ingrained in our curatorial style. Particularly Samantha’s and my work are often concerned with identity and perceived identities, the way we view ourselves and the way we are viewed by others, so I suppose this instinctively relates to the sort of work that connects to us, which we in turn pursue to be shown in Where People Sleep. We are interested in giving space to people that identify anywhere in the gender spectrum and are always thinking of ways to keep our exhibiting artists as diverse as possible.
AMY: We celebrate everything and everyone in the gallery, females, males, kittens, slugs, snails….
What insight have you gained from sharing your female experiences through your artwork?
AMY: Personally my art doesn’t relate to female experience other than it being made by a female, I tend not to use gender as a theme.
SHAHEEDA: I have learnt so so so much since moving to Glasgow, co-founding Where People Sleep and officially beginning to make work as an artist. My identity as a woman is something that I feel has shaped the very essence of my life experiences, many of them being negative ones. Exploring this through my work allows me to start conversations about things that are really important to me like consent, identity and relationships. It allows me to feel as if I am directly attacking a passive world with my message.
SAMANTHA: Through my work I’m constantly gazing at others, gazing at myself and gazing at the world around us. I think it’s important that we celebrate the female gaze. We celebrate being creative and passionate. We look at the definition of Femininity and the many forms it comes in and embrace it. We become inspired by ourselves and those around us and thereby become our own muses. Through my work I’ve gained a greater understanding of my own identity and acceptance of it. And also love and admiration for those who strive to be nothing but themselves. We live in a world with ingrained social constructs, so it’s hard to break through and make up your own mind, that’s why art that challenges them is so incredibly important. I hope through my work I not only inspire women but also the entire gender spectrum.
What would you like to see change in the art scene across the UK?
SHAHEEDA: I would like to see more paid opportunities for people like me. Young, determined and motivated people who have no desire to pursue anything but a career in the creative arts. I would like to see an increase of POC representation across the board, from exhibiting artists to institution staff. I would like to see fewer people talking about experiences that they have never endured. I would like to see more collaborative relationships being built and more focus on how artists can support other artists when they are in positions of power or privilege.
SAMANTHA: Currently what I would like to see change in the Art scene is artists being paid for the work they produce. Not just in the Art scene but the entire creative community. I think people tend to think, ‘Well I’m giving this person a platform for their work to be shown so that’s more than enough payment for their services’. Which if it was any other job sector would be seen as ridiculous. You’ve also got places like Transmission who purposely make the effort to pay the members and artists they employ but are sitting with a committee of volunteers who aren’t being paid for what is essentially a full time job. We’ll end up losing these important and essential organisations which is shameful. That’s is why this is so important to WPS. Although we’re a small collective, we really want to uphold this principle.
There’s also still a strong social class structure within the Art Scene and particularly in Art Education. There shouldn’t be these boundaries. When I think of Art I think of everyone. No matter who they are and where they come from. It’s something that can be so fundamental to a person. Art has the power to change perceptions, to engage with an audience who have no previous knowledge of art. It shouldn’t matter about your race, or what class you come from. That’s why I love that WPS aim to work with a diverse range of artists and particularly bringing together both artists from an art education and also who aren’t. It’s so important to know you don’t need a art degree to make art and have voice within it.
What gender equality causes are important to the collective and why?
SHAHEEDA: Equal representation, lack of censorship.
SAMANTHA: I think it’s so important that we’re able to create a space that is not only diverse but attracts people from all walks of life. We want a space where people can speak freely without fear of judgment or ridicule. Where people can be themselves and show art that is open, honest and real. That’s why gender equality is so important particularly now when the word gender is being redefined. Now is a time to see and understand different people’s perspectives no matter what race, gender or sexuality, we should all have a voice that is listened to and I think that is the beauty of Art and particularly what I want our collective to stand for.
Art is so sensory tell us how you feel about smell?
SHAHEEDA: I like the smell of spray paint. It reminds me of my childhood.
Are you witches or bitches?
SHAHEEDA: Two witches and a bitch.
Find Where People Sleep at: https://www.facebook.com/wherepeoplesleep
Photos by Linda McIntosh