The Basement are pleased to announce the launch of ‘Bridges Not Borders’ – a capsule collection exploring the current political climate, both at home and overseas, releasing at 7:00PM (BST) on Sunday 18th August.
Dutch artist Stikstok was commissioned to create an illustration that embodied the term ‘Bridges Not Borders’ – coined from our sentiment toward the imposition of boundaries that act to split us at a time when unity is needed more than ever
We live in an increasingly divided world – separated by arbitrary borders and ‘differences’ across Europe and the Rest of the World. The challenges we face today as humans, transcend borders. As a community above all else, we believe in bringing people together and advocating for the change needed to ensure we as people come closer together, not move further apart.
We sat down down with three protagonists to champion their stories on how they are tackling divide within their industries and championing the moniker Bridges Not Borders.
Luc Hinson – Co-Founder Of Between Borders
I’m the co-founding Editor-in-Chief and Director of Between Borders. A magazine, a platform and an agency set up to platform others before ourselves. To champion the voices and work of those whose voices don’t quite manage to reach echo chambers of our country’s creative bubbles. Our work is set out to redefine the perceptions of British identity.
Britishness as an identity, as a tool, is now wielded by those who see it as a means of division. What we hope to show through our work is a different reality, is a Britain made up of vastly different but shared narratives, one that thrives off of pluralism and diversity. One that believes we’re stronger when we’re together. One that we can all be proud of.
We emerged directly out of a haze of bigotry, and misinformation. In response to Brexit and Trump, we wanted to counter the hateful identity of politics. We wanted to open dialogues around identity, not close them down. But above all we wanted to document the realities of Britain, in a way that looks beyond the capital, that attempts to heal divisions rather than stoke fires of hatred. To create a British identity we can look to, and all share, one that unites instead of alienates.
Why Bridges Not Borders?
We live in an era dominated by the nation-state. Piecemeal chunks of land are divided up into countries, marked out with borders indiscriminately dividing communities from one another. The reality of the world we live in is not one where problems target a singular state. We don’t live in an epoch of inter-state war, as we once did. The challenges and problems we face today as humans transcend borders. Global warming doesn’t adhere to borders, food shortages and water crises don’t adhere to borders, yet somehow they permeate every facet of society. As we stand on this pivotal juncture, reclaiming our fabled sovereignty from the EU, what do we stand to gain? Simply, nothing. Borders, divide, inhibit, and separate. We need to focus on bridging the gaps and divides that exist in our society. Not simply from one country to the next, but within our own cities, towns and villages. We need to be coming together and standing in solidarity with one another, not imposing intangible borders between us and our neighbours.
Bridges represent hope and connectivity, bridges allow for frictionless movement. Bridges traverse valleys, cross rivers and propel us forwards. Bridges enable the flow of goods, of people of ideas and of culture. We only learn more about one another by experiencing each other first hand, we only add to the rich tapestry of our lives by experiencing the new. The more and more that we shy away and shrink into our shells, the more we stand to lose. The responsibility lies not with the state, it lies in our hands. In our daily lives we can be bridges, we can foster connectivity, By looking outwards, by stepping out of the known we only stand to gain. Bridges, not Borders are the future.
You can learn more about Luc’s work with Between Borders here.
Ellie Pennick – Founder Of Guts Gallery
I am a queer working-class artist, activist and the founder of Guts Gallery, which provides support and exhibition opportunities for artists less platformed within today’s contemporary art scene. Our desire is to facilitate space and exposure for BAME artists, female artists, working-class artists, queer artists, artists outside of London (bridging the North/South divide) and other artists from oppressed communities.
I was accepted onto a sculpture masters course at The Royal College of Art after leaving university two years ago. However, due to limited funds, I was unable to study there. It was a kick in the teeth because I had earned an opportunity that I couldn’t afford because of my working class background. I was left sofa hopping around London and living off benefits looking for a route to realise my ambitions and earn a living in the arts. At the same time, I was frustrated with the political system that the art world operates in. The art business model mirrors a wider social austerity that disproportionately benefits people who do not experience racial oppression, gender or class discriminations.
After withdrawing from the RCA I realised I had nothing to lose, so why not start a social justice-business venture? Fuelling progressive change in the industry that alienated me due to my class is more important to me than a piece of paper with a Masters grade on it.
Why Bridges Not Borders?
Bridges not borders is more than a slogan to me. I know there are a lot of brilliant charitable ventures in varied sectors building bridges and opposing borders across the UK and beyond but the art world is straggling behind. All too often the pedestal of privilege prevents wider involvement of artists from outside of the UK and particularly from non-Westernised countries. Given the valuable role that art has in promoting creative and political observations of society at large, it’s important that we are activists as much as we are artists. That means diversifying and providing a platform for oppressed groups from far and wide.
At Guts, we helped the artist Izdihar Afyouni to receive an endorsement from the Arts Council so that she could avoid imprisonment in Jordan. This involved publishing a letter that made clear why she was at risk – because of the controversial queer forward-thinking work she has exhibited, and why we, as an arts community, must champion her contributions and protect her livelihood. Small acts like this can create a huge impact for individuals. This must be the start and we must all do more to block borders that endanger lives and inhibit self-expression.
You can learn more about Ellie’s work with Guts Gallery here.
Karis Beaumont- Founder Of Bumpkin Files
I am a self-taught photographer, documentarian and aspiring director from Hertfordshire, England. Being a shy, introverted girl growing up, I found it hard to articulate my thoughts and observations, so photography has definitely been a great way for me to show people a glimpse of my world.
My main focus is to celebrate the beauty, resilience and representation of people of African & Caribbean heritage and decent. I strive to allow the diaspora to tell its own stories. Bumpkin Files started off as a mini archive project in 2017 after finding lack of reference to Black people in Britain, living outside of major cities. Both of my parents were born and raised
in Hertfordshire, so them telling me their stories about growing up was something I could really relate to. The narrative of the Black British experience is very London-centric. It’s really difficult to find easily accessible information about the remaining percentage, especially of those who live in smaller cities and towns. In my experience, the lack of representation has sometimes caused the majority to dismiss and distance themselves from us living in less visible places. I thought to myself ‘if nobody’s shedding light on the experience from a country perspective,
then I’ll do it myself’. I realised how important it was to document and celebrate the current life of Black people living in less visible spaces, which led me to create my ongoing body of work ‘Country Bumpkins’.
Why Bridges Not Borders?
The purpose of a bridge is to provide a passage over obstruction. One of the biggest obstructions we unfortunately face as a society is misunderstanding, which is something that causes a lot of conflict, ignorance and a breakdown of communication. To me bridges demonstrate solution and compassion, and borders demonstrate blockages and disorientation. I strongly believe that compassion leads to understanding, which understanding is a vital tool for us all to progress towards respecting one another. The way I aim to build bridges is to celebrate those who are not represented enough in an honest way, whether it’s due to race, cultural heritage, class or community. Highlighting the topics of race, misrepresentation, and general life experiences has allowed me to connect and have honest conversations with strangers as well as my peers. I am blessed to own such a powerful tool like the camera, because I have the freedom to reshape narratives, connect with others, but most importantly, learn from them too. Allowing space within us to continuously learn about the people around us is such an effective way to understand compassion and respect. Without borders, we are able to move, think, share and love
You can learn more about Karis’s work here
The collection launches at 7:00PM (BST) on www.bsmntstore.com