“Soon All This Will Be Picturesque Ruins”
“Soon All This Will Be Picturesque Ruins” critiques and responds to issues of gentrification and the diminishing presence of queer space in cities. A tension between creation and destruction seems for some to be a necessary part of urban development. But in reality, it plays out as a violent process of exclusion of those who occupied the space before.
The installation and five accompanying videos offer fragments of a process that took place in an area of Eindhoven undergoing a rapid regeneration process which has included the demolition of an entire neighbourhood. Over a period of five months, Colin Keays instilled an imagined history to this real site through a series of immersive performances. Occupying a shed at the back of one of the condemned properties, the artist fully renovated the interior of the space into four scenographies to track different archetypal clichés associated with gentrification. Starting as a Gay Bar [Act I], the shed was transformed into a Café [Act II] complete with clichés of avocado on toast and edison lightbulbs, followed by a white painted Airbnb [Act III] and finally Luxury Property [Act IV]. Through a satirical reference to the process that was about to happen immediately outside of its four walls, the narrative acts as a springboard for reflections on cities globally undergoing the same process.
Gentrification, as Sarah Schulman stated, is a process that “replaces most people’s experience with the perceptions of the privileged, and calls that a reality.” As a result, communities are displaced, while populations are marginalised on the basis of class, race, and identity. Looking specifically at queer spaces as endangered hubs for a community, the project has been layered with a sense of nostalgia for queer space that has already been lost. Aesthetic and spatial parallels can subsequently been drawn to the gay cruising grounds of pre-AIDS era New York, as well as the familar but rapidly disappearing environment of gay bars.
Documented through an installation that references the exact dimensions of the original shed in Eindhoven, the fragility of the empty stud-wall structure appears to be somewhere ambiguously between ruined architecture and a construction site, while its voyeuristic frame poses questions around the viewer’s agency and complicity with processes of exclusion.