As the world comes together in Rio for the Olympics, this summer’s Festival of Love celebrates people from around the world, in particular those who are challenge the status quo, whether refugees, artists or designers.
The Calais Jungle became the home for many refugees seeking a better life, growing into a small town where people lived in difficult conditions but with hope for a new future and, in time, having the buildings that a town would have including a theatre and art school. The Good Chance Theatre, set up to create a welcoming and safe place for refugees to tell their stories, has been recreated on the South Bank this summer, along with Alpha Diagne’s The Blue House, originally built as his house but developing into a cultural and artistic centre for the camp and here also showing some of his artwork.
In March 2016 the southern area of the Jungle was demolished by the French authorities and, during this time, 291 unaccompanied children were made homeless, of which 129 disappeared. To draw attention to this, 291 cuttings of children were made from brown paper and hung out on red tape, like washing to dry, between power lines in the jungle. Several of these children are on display along with an exhibition of photographs and drawings which set the context for Diagne’s The Blue House.
Outside on the terraces, Danish artist Jeppe Hein questions why so many park benches are boring rectangular slabs, dropped off from a lorry and placed without any thought of the spatial and architectural setting in which they sit. Can they have other more active uses and become a centre of activity as well as a place to sit and relax?
In the main foyer, a shimmering colourful Ventricle by SOFTlab from New York, hangs from the ceiling, bringing pulsating new life into the space, while Jonathan Kennedy Enyim-Otebil was inspired by two polar bears to evoke suggestions of love and sustainability in Just You and Me, the winning entry in Southbank Centre’s nationwide Design Challenge.
Down in the dark, like the undercroft of a church, ScanLAB Projects have caught the limbs and movements of dancers at a split second in time in COLLAPSE – An Exhibition of Remains. Like water frozen in time, the dancer’s limbs have been suspended in positions which would not seem possible, while the work hints at the perpetual cycle of starting, progressing, finishing and starting again, along with a video of a dark city at night which also rises and falls and asks the question which runs through all the exhibitions: “Are we the survivors or fossils in the journey of tomorrow”.