Ballyhoo! presents:

8 Chiswick Street, Burley, Leeds 4

"In-House" is an artranspenine project

The artists of "In-House" are:
bruce bateman
gary cromack
katy devine
gill nichol
mike stanley
andrea verhoeven
jon wakeman

The In-House project curated by Ballyhoo! is a response to the dearth of adequate, non-corporate exhibition spaces for artists practising in Leeds. The choice of a boarded-up, brick, back-to-back council house in Burley as the gallery acts as a statement about this lack, whilst questioning the notion of the gallery in common with other recent projects in the north of England. Domus North (and South) in 1997 at a house in York which was also a home and Void which early in 1998 travelled around Leeds University, were two shows that aimed to disrupt the notion of 'gallery'. Whether gallery means a country house or a modernist white walled space, what either of these offer is a too established and establishment point of encounter. The debates provoked by the Leeds University 3rd year fine art students' Costa Brava extravaganza seem to indicate that art can be kept alive and well if it is allowed to surface from under the covers of such establishment venues. The effort involved in travelling to dispersed art spaces or the chance encounter of art works in a place of passage are crucial to this discourse. The viewer becomes a collaborator with the artists as a space is redefined and 'art' follows suit.

Ballyhoo!'s use of a boarded-up council house also makes reference to another contemporary discourse of artists' interventions, that on urban de-and re-generation and the interface between the two. The 1997 show Champion by artists at Leeds Sculpture Workshop used strategically positioned sculpture and performance pieces to comment on the urban renewal projects in Leeds' re-named 'West Waterfront'- a touristic scrubbed face of urban planning. Similarly in Nottingham Expo later in 1997, in 'untitled' Jason Bowman white-washed a room in a disused factory in anticipation of the bleaching process of the developer gang. At a time when Leeds City Council is spending 60% of its housing maintenance budget on boarding up houses, New Labour debate the difference between green and brown (field) sites and social division is trenchant, this intervention by the In-House team touches on several vital issues in Leeds urban life.

In-House is the work of seven artists and includes the three members of Ballyhoo! The entire project has taken one and a half years, the last three months of which have been spent by the artists working in the house. Most of the rooms in the house are shared space, the different artists' work is interactive with its environment and there is a visual dialogue between the works themselves. Although the house does not qualify as derelict, its state of abandonment is paramount. Apart from on the upper floor all the work occurs behind the brown painted steel boards which clothe more and more of the local authority's redundant or hard to let housing stock.

Being invited to witness this behind the scenes is an intriguing experience. The work is permeated by a sense of undercover loss, memory and history. Neatly laid out rows of small brass plaques with the names and dates of all the previous inhabitants engraved on them are quietly displayed on the bulkhead of the top landing stairwell. In several places the wallpaper, which was one of the few residues of the former inhabitants, has been torn off and text emerges from behind it naming the people for whom very little other testimony remains. In the kitchen which still has a mixture of older and more recent 'fitted' cupboards, an array of used kitchen utensils hangs from the ceiling as testament to an imagined space and time of domestic labour and its various skills. Again there is writing on the wall, this time stencilled in red powder paint. The words are from the advertising language of washing powder television commercials and are compressed and disjointed within the parameters of a square picture frame shape, although the paint had spilled onto the floor as if in reaction to the mantra of 'white shirts and mud don't mix'.

Much of the work seemed concerned with parameters and lines. In several of the rooms geometric and architectural shapes are drawn in a variety of what could be discarded materials, wool and insulating tape. The shape of one room has been drawn scaled down in blue wool and and hung in the centre of the room, suspended like the life of the house itself. A broken fish tank, with offending brick, both made from cardboard underlines the vulnerability of the house, its history and the ambivalent and ambiguous position of both artists and viewers to it. The body of this gallery is both permanent (insofar as bricks and mortar can be) and temporary. Its temporary identity as a gallery has been pre-empted by its changing hands and becoming redundanct as a dwelling.

This dilemma of an inside/outside thematic underscored the mood of the work in the house. This was captured well in two works; the hidden tape recording of the street noise outside and the work of one of the artists inside, neither visible to the other through the steel shutters and a plaster cast of a baby's bath (familiar to viewers of Rachael Whiteread's work) hung up more for ornament rather than for use. The issue of house/home, and which is which, strikes the viewer in the only work which does not share its space. 6 years three months is a documentation of the loss of the artist's mother. She uses images of herself dressed as members of her own family in semi-grotesque. These are pasted onto one wall while opposite the letter announcing her mother's death is framed by itself. This evocation of individual loss can stand for all the memories of In-House and at the same time forms the substance of its renewal.

According to the curators, this installation is "about artists making their work first and foremost." The conflation of production and display in a space gives In-House an organicity which is missing from the establishment art venues. Here the viewer is allowed to reflect more on the actuality of production and its process within contemporary art practice. At the same time the artists' responses to a space which is both permanent and temporary give a sense of the fractures inherent in art production and consumption and the urban life taking place around it. In-House is about containment; its production is mostly behind the boards and limited in time (the works will not survive the length of the exhibition), and expansion, showing work in a setting that moves beyond the fringes of art viewing confines and (almost) onto the street.

Written in pencil on one wall were the words "to be continued". The Ballyhoo! Team promise more site specific installments. Art has got itself together and is moving on.

Miranda Mason