Banner Repeater- project space on Platform 1
An artist run space transforms an unused office space at Hackney Downs station
Proof that artists set up in the most unlikely places, Hackney Downs train station in East London hosts an inspired project space in an unoccupied office on Platform 1.
Banner Repeater is a project space, reading room and bookshop, which also hosts independent publisher Publish and Be Damned’s public library. A not for profit organization founded by artist Ami Clarke in 2009 with assistance from an Empty Shop Fund grant, it shows an impressive range of contemporary work by mainly emerging UK artists.
Talks and screenings
Complementing the exhibitions is a programme of film screenings and talks featuring artists, academics and even journalists. The subjects range from niche areas of research like ‘Liquid Crystals, Phosphor-fluorescence and the New-Old’ by Esther Leslie to political questions like the recent ‘How Its Kicking Off everywhere’, which explored how technology impacts on our understanding of a shared political voice, and included BBC Newsnight’s economics editor Paul Mason.
The unique location, which sees 4000 people in incidental footfall, is open six days a week, and opens at the unusually early (for art galleries) time of 8 am, thereby catching the morning rush. Commuters, including those who may not normally venture into an artist-run space, often peek in out of curiosity, whiling away the minutes til their train arrives.
Passersby seem happy to engage with the work, despite it occupying the more ‘challenging’ end of current practice; its refreshing that the project space does not patronise the non-art audience by shying away from it out of fear that they won’t ‘get it’.
Distribution and dissemination
Key to the space’s ethos, and reflecting its location at the interstices of a travel network, is a focus on multiple points of dissemination and methods of distribution. Embracing both old and new technologies, the gallery produces pamphlets, flyers and posters, which function as manifestations of text pieces and artworks, rather than the usual promotional material.
For example, UN-PUBLISH is a series of critical works published on paper, available for free from the trolley outside the project space. Examining relations between human and technology, it includes a contribution by Nina Power, whose blog and book One Dimensional Woman are of my personal favourites.
Website as public space
Much more than a simple info-point, the website hosts a video archive of all the talks held there, thereby providing the public a free, and easily accessible library to browse. There is also a dedicated ‘downloads’ section, which invites visitors to download and keep digital artworks and texts made by contributing artists, such as Steven Ball's pdf: On Being, a PDF. Some works have online and physical versions, such as Benedict Drew’s humorously dark html essay Notes on the Dumb Terminal. This was projected as a live stream as part the exhibition ‘The Map is the Territory’ but exists equally (and without a time-limit) in its online iteration, embracing the internet as a site of exhibition alongside the gallery.
Online and physical exhibition space
As most galleries are still reluctant to share work online- despite the obvious correlation in today’s networked economy between visibility and cultural relevancy, which usually translates into economic value - this is surprisingly unique.
This exploration of the shifting nature of public space and role of the gallery as a physical and virtual site for showing and distributing works is one of the strengths of Banner Repeater. It embraces the potential of being situated on a physical, publicly placed platform while making use of the networked technology as a site of exchange and exhibition.