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House of Homeless, 2010-12

House of Homeless is a series of photographic portraits developed during SPACE artist’s residency at Arlington – a historic and iconic hostel for homeless people in London, which was re-launched in 2010 with high media attention that followed government’s attempts to create a new model of dealing with homelessness in the UK.

House of Homeless draws on tradition of formal portraiture, which was first reserved for the rich and powerful.  Whilst its cannons shifted with time, its functions remain clear.  Depictions of important family members on one hand; on the other: rulers, politicians, dignitaries, businessmen or heroes, have adorned walls of stately family homes, public clubs, institutions and corporations since antiquity, with major revivals that reflected cultural shifts of Renaissance or later Industrial Revolution.  They role has always been to impose the authority, confirm a position of power, to evoke respect, to assert the home’s, or the institution’s, historical lineage and social standing.

Starting with 125 photographs of a chair set against a black studio background – number of residents and staff at Arlington, the artist gradually replaced them with portraits of those who agreed to participate, assigning all of the sitters equal importance.

This equality is key to the philosophy behind the ‘new model’ that Arlington works to – aiming to give all residents self worth and confidence.  The work exposes the reality behind this approach, raising issues of social engagement and social exclusion, institution and home.  The work examines the different forms of power, stereotypes and stigma that affect our understanding of homelessness in 21st century Britain.

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