Mise Maher & Oscar Briscall-Harvey. Eviction Notice.
On February 10th 2018, Arts University Bournemouth students Mise Maher and Oscar Briscall-Harvey hosted ‘Eviction Notice’, a mixed media exhibition featuring a curated selection of local artists, in their own home. Inspired by the real life brutality of being evicted from their student house due to a bankrupt landlord, the exhibition shines through as an inspiring example of how art can confront unjust abuses of power. Our interview with Mise and Oscar seeks to explore the process of putting on such an exhibition as well as expand upon the potential transformative power art can possess for young people.
Could you tell us a bit about both of your backgrounds in the art and design fields?
(Oscar) My arrival to the art and design field was quite a jump, going from studying three essay-based subjects at A Level to an undergraduate degree in Visual Communication at AUB (Arts University Bournemouth). In my final year of study, I’ve found a strong passion for branding and poster design, which lends itself well to the production of visuals for the Eviction Notice exhibition.
Having lived with Mise for the entirety my time at university I’ve found myself often delving further into practice that may be considered closer to art than design. I think this has certainly aided my work, allowing for a viewpoint on a project that I may otherwise not possess. I believe we positively influence each other’s work and it’s one of the reasons working together to curate the exhibition was such a success.
(Mise) My internship at Charlie Smith London (Shoreditch) was a pivotal moment in my artistic practice and knowledge. Since then, my work has mainly consisted of painting and sculpture. I am highly influenced by the writings of Grégoire Chamayou, more precisely Oceanic Enemy. It makes one think of the limits of surveillance and the advanced secretive forms that are available to people. I am also in my final year of study at AUB, aiming to continue to achieve a master’s degree.
How was the process of curating and putting on an exhibition in your own home? Did the space present any specific challenges to your creative vision?
The most obvious challenge in terms of curation was the issue of space. Although the property is fairly spacious, with an upstairs lounge area, giving six pieces enough space to stand out individually was definitely an obstacle. On top of this, we’ve never had more than three guests in the house before this event, therefore over thirty attendees were quite tricky to accommodate.
In addition to this, upon moving in we discovered nearly all of the handles for doors were either missing or non-functioning, thus ensuring our personal possessions were safely out the way was challenging. To get around this problem we stored everything in a single bedroom with the artwork Preparing For Protest positioned so that it hung over the door.
Scouting for suitable exhibitioners was achieved by Mise, hand-picking artworks from AUB Fine Art studios. The primary theme for such works was reaction to authority or abuses of power. For example, Charlie Pritchard’s performance, Loophole, was an attempt to use the voice to mimic a moment at which the eb and flow of symbolic value imperceptibly surging through the world as we speak oscillates and gyrates to a halt. In this performance, Pritchard evicted the attendees to the forecourt and performed from the warmth of the inside of the property, as rain and wind battered the audience.
” For me, art would not be as exciting to create if there were no challenge to address. I thrive off having a voice through what I produce.”
Mise, what was the thought process behind your curation for the exhibition? Could you tell us more about the artists and works on show?
Upon entering Eviction Notice, the viewer encounters miscellaneous objects showcased above the stairs; such as broken handles and a malfunctioning shower head which represented the landlord’s disregard for the property. To juxtapose this, personal ephemera in the form of moving in greetings cards from friends and family to celebrate a milestone in life of finally living together as a couple. These new-found artworks were shown above red fabric which formed a consistent theme throughout the exhibition, a prominent element of Maher’s work.
Upon entering the bathroom, the viewer is met with walls lined with copies of the eviction notice served by Bournemouth court. The aim of this display was to enable the audience a unique view into the mind of the tenants and the scale of how this single sheet of A4 paper affects their lives. The work of Jack Hughes, Untitled (Remember Diego Time), was placed in the bathroom to reflect the content of the painting. The work depicts a figure consuming an unknown controlled substance, an act which is commonly undertaken in a concealed environment such as a toilet.
Exiting the bathroom, the audience is met with Emily Everard’s Preparing For Protest, a large white bedsheet marked with the phrase ‘not up for grabs’. The technique of the writing reflects emotions of anger and frustration, and the wording could be interpreted by the viewer dependent on the circumstance of placement and environment. For example, on a bed, the work may be conveyed in a sexual manner, whereas in the context of Eviction Notice, it is a direct hit at the court, bailiffs and forms of power seeking to take the property from the tenants.
Upstairs, From 29 With Love, by Mise Maher, is precariously stacked similar to the shape of a caltrop. At first glance, the works appear to be sculptures, but are in fact 1:1 scale hellfire missile spray-paintings. From a curation perspective, the positioning interacted with the audience as they viewed the work of Patrick Drake.
Drake’s work, The Jarsdel News Report comprised of a satirical commentary ‘diss-track’ aimed at fictional pharmaceutical company ‘Jarsdel’. Also being presented through video was Georgie Ryan’s Shadowplay, which explored ideas of processes devoid of human contact, similar to how the tenants had no contact with the landlord or human contact with the power serving the eviction notice.
The story behind Eviction Notice is heartbreaking and represents an all-too-real problem of young people, especially students, being forced to the margins of society. How were you able to turn such a profoundly negative experience into an outlet for creativity?
The eviction was served at an incredibly important time in our education, both working towards our final year in our respective courses. We felt letting such an event, completely out of our control, simply leave us with solely negative consequences and emotions would be an incredible waste. As students we had neither the time nor money to challenge the decision of the court, therefore utilised our resources as creatives was the next best option. It is not uncommon for artists to turn incredibly negative moments and emotions into beautiful and expressive works of art, and we feel as if we acted in a similar manner.
Do you feel a certain responsibility as young people in creative fields to tackle injustices in society through your work?
(Oscar) I think we definitely do have a responsibility to some degree. In terms of design, I’m conscious of the fact no one will change the world with a poster. I think young people often utilise creative responses when faced with injustice, as authority and power in society often reject their challenge when it takes the form of what they are familiar with. Reprisal against power-holders utilising something they are unfamiliar with may have a higher chance of a response or correction to injustice.
(Mise) For me, art would not be as exciting to create if there were no challenge to address. I thrive off having a voice through what I produce.
Eviction Notice very clearly has close ties to some of the topics that our prompt ‘Living in the Shadow of Power’ seeks to explore. Could you offer your own short interpretation of the prompt with regards to the exhibition?
An important element of the exhibition was how the solicitors of the party seeking repossession of the property outright rejected the request to extend the eviction date due to such a request being deemed ‘unreasonable’. The right to apply for a delay of up to two months is stated in the Protection of Tenants Act 2010, but the solicitors were well within their rights to deny the request, it essentially balances on the humanity of the repossessing party.
The tenants of the property undeniably lived in the shadow of power from the moment the eviction notice entered the letterbox. The threat of eviction transformed the place they once called home into merely four walls and a roof, an unfamiliar stack of bricks and mortar waiting to be reclaimed by the authority of the court and sold on to another member of the same unjust society.