Monday, 19 April 2010

Elena Bajo lives and works in New York and Berlin and has spent the last two months as artist in residence at The Woodmill leading up to her first UK solo exhibition, opening at the gallery next week.

As Elena’s work is site-specific, she is used to having to work fast to a very tight time frame. Although unusually for her, she has had two months to prepare at The Woodmill, but she sees this as a positive, if unfamiliar, opportunity. This has given her time to research the history of the building; the findings of this research are central to her work. Elena is not intimidated by scale, having made pieces for outdoors before, such as a 70 metres long x 4 m high sculpture, 'Silent', a sound barrier made out of concrete, steel and plexiglass, recontextualized and placed in the urban context of Madrid, it was awarded the Madrid Abierto Public Art Award, in collaboration with Warren Neidich, Madrid 2004. But The Woodmill gallery space is vast, being the biggest indoor space she has shown in, and so this extra time to adapt her work to it has been appreciated.

Elena received an MA in Fine Art from Central St Martins, but previous to this studied Architecture MA in Spain. Elena decided to study architecture as although she had a strong background in performance art, she sensed that she wanted to find out more about space, and answer the question in her head, ‘what is a space?’ For her, this architecture degree was very much theoretical and she learnt a lot about approaching a subject from a wider perspective. She found that all points of creative interest converged on this course – it is a field in which everything is imbedded. She now finds that she processes information in terms of drawings and plans – which no doubt has influenced her interest in the function and history of the buildings in which she exhibits, often looking at architectural plans.

Elena’s work is very much all encompassing to the space she is working in, using the gallery as a studio and incorporating found objects from the space to create her installations. This way of working inevitably develops a very physical relationship between the artist and the environment. Within her practice she examines the social and political dimensions of everyday spaces. She has found that The Woodmill building has always previously been government owned, and it is these situations of power that she is interested in. Whilst exploring the building, Elena also discovered that it had been used as a bunker during the Cold War, and this bunker still remains beneath the building. Without any access, she asked permission from the local council, but was denied; so despite this building now being used by artists, it is still difficult to function separately from this history of government ownership.

Elena’s work takes on a wide range of forms of expression; exploring performance, installation, sculpture, painting, film, text, writing and participatory events. Her exhibition at The Woodmill will be no exception to this. There will be an ongoing performance throughout the opening evening and exhibition dates. She says we should expect everything from the list to be present in the show.

It was the unique environment and situation at The Woodmill that encouraged Elena to come to London for her residency. She explains how she was fascinated by the concept of a large group of artists occupying a building that would be demolished afterwards, making it entirely a space for these artists to use for their needs. Whilst working in the building, she has enjoyed working alongside others rather than on her own, having the opportunity to communicate ideas and concepts and share ways of working.

Following on from the exhibition opening on Wednesday, there will be several events and activities linked to the exhibition held on the weekend of the 8th May. During this weekend there will be a discussion between Elena Bajo and Tom Trevatt, a series of film screenings, including Guy Debord’s La Société du spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) 1973, and films relevant to the local area such as a Paul Neville’s movie Bermondsey in 1969, and a tour of the area with a local historian. Other events during the exhibiton include a poetry presentation by Barry Schwabsky, reading about his 'Abandoned Poems', work that shares a commonality with Elena’s work in the sense of using 'rejected, abandoned, refused or disused materials'.

For the duration of the exhibition Elena is doing a collaboration Project with P.A.S.T Projects, Paul Sammut and Alexandra Terry. This Project will reactivate the space that they P.A.S.T Projects occupy in The Woodmill building, which was the mail room for the office building. They have invited artists, curators, writers, musicians to contribute to the project by sending them letters by Post, which will then be displayed in the space.

After The Woodmill, Elena has plenty coming up, with a group outdoor show at Sølyst, Copenhagen, Umberto di Marino Gallery in Naples, Thirty Six Dramatic Situations, at LOUIS V. E.S.P., New York and a performance at Torrance Art Museum, LA.

Elena Bajo / The Woodmill / P.A.S.T Projects’ blog

Private View: Wednesday 21 April, 7 – 9.30pm

Thursday to Sunday, 12 – 6pm
21 April – 23 May 2010

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