After a five days show, “Cause+Complexity’ ended at the Island on Saturday 25th of February. The multimedia exhibition was organised by the members of Bristol Homeless Forum to promote the Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week 2017 and raise people’ sensibility of homelessness in Bristol.
£ 306.00 is the average amount that a woman needs in Bristol for tampons in a whole year. The artist Amanda Atkinson left in a corner £306.00 in sterling coins, to raise the attention to a peculiar, humiliating, aspect of living on the street as a woman, that is too often ignored and left on the side. The work of art was part of “Cause+Complexity”, an art exhibition organise to celebrate the Homelessness Awareness Week 2017.
Bristol records the highest number of homeless people in the UK, outside London. Even though the number of rough sleepers or people without a proper home keeps increasing, the Bristol City Council’s budget for homelessness prevention has been reduced by 20% between 2011 and 2015, and further important cuts are coming up next year.
Several reasons make people end up living on the street: the rise of living costs; mental health; relation breakdown; eviction; Counting Court judgments; and, most important, the fact that too often people in difficult situations refuse to ask for help.
Facing the complexity of this problem, the Bristol Homeless Forum’s members promoted the Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week 2017 to raise awareness of homelessness on a larger scale.
Working on prevention rather than on temporary solutions, the idea is to encourage people to look after each other and take action. The help we can provide aims to highlight the importance of an early intervention and persuading people to access the support they need, but also in finding alternative ways to raise people sensibility about the problem.
“Cause+Complexity” responded to this philosophy. Local artists have been invited to investigate causes and complex circumstances that lead and, even worst, perpetuate homelessness in Bristol.
The exhibition aimed to offer an alternative view of homelessness accessible even to those who are not familiar with this problem, either as an artist or as a visitor. With a wide range of media, ranging from ceramic, illustration and collage, to photography and film, the artists responded to the same bottom line according to their own personal approach to the problem.
Several paintings, prints and photos investigate the causes and consequences of homelessness from different angles, while in the Projector Room, a documentary film and some short videos show life in Bristol as a homeless person, with interviews and true stories. The exhibition offered a wide overview of the complexity of the problem in Bristol, as the artists touched different aspects following their sensibility. For example, impressive and straight to the point is the installation by Maxwell Rushton, Left Out. It is made out of black bin bags giving form to a homeless person vindicating change. This piece shows how our society is bringing us to see people like rubbish, a waste that we have to leave behind because it can’t fit with our society’s demand.
Particularly interesting for the whole idea of the awareness week, it was the installation presented by Art4Change, “Why am I here, and you there?”. Already displayed last December in Arnolfini, the two mock houses installation is the pilot of a project started in 2016 by Frankie Stone and Mark Skelton. With the aim of engaging the public about the realities of homelessness in Bristol, this project truly engaged everyone, homeless, artists and viewers. One of the two mock houses is a collage created by homeless as result of a workshop ran at San Mungo’s, while the other one has been left blank with three question to answer for the visitors. Postcards with members of the public, homeless and service providers from the workshop have been left with the same questions, in order for all of them to be part of the exhibition itself or being spread across the city.
This project is particularly meaningful to the idea of keeping us from just giving a bed for a night or giving some spare change. Art4Chenge’s project showed us the possibility to create an environment where people usually kept on the margins can be free to share their experiences and, most importantly, learn new skills to start again and feel actively part of a community.
Cause+Complexity and Art4Change gave us an alternative to tackle the root of the problem that we too often consider to be part of the city routine. Art can’t offer a solution to the problem, but it has the capacity to deeply investigate the complexity of it, giving us a new key to read the problem. Through local projects and working on the peculiarity of the city, we can be closer to the people, rather than the abstract problem, and offer concrete help. We can act on preventing rather than dealing with the consequences, not only creating a second chance for these people, but also increasing our sense of responsibilities and opening our mind to a constructive critical spirit.