The Brent Biennale, created by Metroland Studios, is a biennial celebration of Brent’s vibrant visual arts scene.
Taking place in 2022 at 12 venues in Willesden, Harlesden and Kilburn, including a tin tabernacle and an unused TfL fish and chip shop, the 2022 Brent Biennial explores ten years of ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy bringing artists and community groups together around ideas of ‘home’. The Brent Biennale first took place in 2020 as part of the London Borough of Culture in Brent.
We spoke to Lois Stonock, Founder and Director of Metroland Cultures and Curator of the Brent Biennale, about the ideas that arose while curating the festival and the significance of it being held in Brent.
Kamile Oforme (2022). Installation view, Brent Biennial 2022, In the House of my Love (July 8 – September 11, 2022). Commissioned in partnership with JackArts/BuilHollywood and Studio Voltaire
How did the idea of a biennial come about?
The first iteration of the Brent Biennale took place in 2020 when Brent was the London Borough of Culture. The pandemic forced us to completely rethink many of the programs we had planned to offer and the biennial model in its simplest sense created a container for a series of exhibitions that were happening in Brent at the same time and talking about the theme center of the community. centered practice. The nature of a biennial also promised that it would happen again, which was a big factor – we were saying it’s not just a 2020 program at Brent but a program in perpetuity, and he’s going to be looking for an ongoing conversation with the many communities that live and work here.
Why is “home” important in Brent?
Brent is a small microcosm of the world. It is London’s second most ethnically diverse borough and one of the local authorities with the most first-generation migrants in the country. The history and heritage of the borough is based on migration and movement, where many different communities have come and made this place their home. This identity of Brent as a house of migrants is truly present throughout the borough and materializes in the efforts of solidarity, care and hospitality that many people and communities have created for themselves and for others. to create a sense of home away from home. Home is very important in Brent because, although it has many personal meanings, people continually find ways to be together, share space and develop relationships with each other through different perspectives and experiences.
How did the works included surprise/interpellate you?
Artists and community groups who took part in this year’s edition of the biennale explored various approaches to questions of home and belonging, reflecting on ten years since the implementation of the Environment Policy hostile to the UK – a damaging set of legislative and administrative measures that has made life in this country virtually impossible for refugees and asylum seekers, as well as incredibly difficult for many migrant communities. What was truly amazing was how the works challenged the notion of belonging as something we own, receive, are born with, or are simply “naturally” associated with. What was most surprising and beautiful was discovering the many worlds into which the works invited us; worlds where the life of no human being can ever be considered “illegal”.
What are your ambitions for Metroland Studios and Brent Biennial?
The Brent Biennale takes place every two years, with the first iteration taking place in 2020. The second iteration took place this year over the summer. Curator Eliel Jones worked with us to present the biennial In The House of My Love, which explored the theme of home. The next iteration of the Biennale will take place in 2024 and we hope to announce the curator in December this year.
Metroland Studios is one of the ways we support artists. We have a studio in Kilburn which has a gallery, social space and screening room; at the same time, we offer free workshops to artists in the borough. The studio building is a temporary space, so we are looking for a new permanent headquarters for the organization!
Turab Shah and Arwa Aburawa, I Take It Everywhere (2022), film still. Commissioned as part of the Brent Biennial 2022, In the House of my Love (July 8 – September 11, 2022).
With the biennial exhibition now over, In the House of my Love spans the remainder of the year through a series of community commissions which are currently underway with Brent-based partners including: Asian Women’s Resource Center, SUFRA Foodbank & Kitchen and Young Roots.
Find out more about London Borough of Culture projects.