State of Limbo
Extracts of Sovereign House
Gildengate House 7 - 10 June 2014, 12 - 6pm daily
Andi Schmied was born in Budapest in 1986
She studied in Barcelona, London and Tel Aviv
Andi currently lives and works in Budapest
A conversation between Andi Schmied and Matt Wright.
Matt Wright: What has been the most interesting discovery over the five weeks of your residency?
Andi Schmied: How important it is to work with people. I think the most I learnt during the five weeks is mostly related to the way of work and this outpost atmosphere, definitely.
MW: Does previous work like Tel Aviv grannies play a part in State of Limbo?
AS: In State of Limbo, I’m doing both architectural stuff and some more bizarre human nature stuff just like in Tel Aviv grannies. The videos and a couple of the photographs are more about the bizarre human natures; like the really bizarre office life that was in the building, what you don’t imagine when you see this massive concrete abandoned block. Oh yeah, you haven’t seen the videos yet.
MW: Maybe we can walk around and ask questions about the space.
AS: So here I display a couple of archive materials that I achieved while I met Reg Walker, an ex Her Majesty Stationery office employee who worked in Sovereign House since the very first day of its opening, until the day the building got abandoned. He gave me all this archive material, that a couple of it I’m displaying here. The zine I prepared puts the whole project into context. On the long wall, what you can see is the after life of sovereign house, which is what’s happening around Anglia square now. For people that are just commuting on the square, the building is basically not even there. So I dissected a building and took apart two of its most significant elements.One of the things I extracted is the spiral staircase, which kind of became a monument of the building. It’s like a functionless bit of the building; apparently the only time they used it was when they had this fire training that only happened once according to that person who was working there from the beginning. The other occasions when they used it was to move from one floor to the other when they didn’t want the boss to see them. It’s a space you go to when you don’t want to be seen but actually for the outside world you’re totally seen in that space.
MW: Sort of very public, private space.
AS: Exactly, so....
(sound of saw buzzing)
AS: Okay we’ll wait for that ... (buzz stops) ... The last bit of the exhibition is like the representation of two of the anecdotes I’ve heard happen in the building. One of them refers to the terrible architecture that the building had in a practical sense for the workers which is a story about how one of the employees once went to work in the office in cooking foil because the whole building was leaking and really cold in winter. It was his way to demonstrate against this terrible condition. The other three images are collages of photocopies that I did with Matthew, and these are kind of like a memory of one of the games they were playing during the 70s in the building when they built the first photocopy machine. Apparently the whole office went insane about it and just photocopied everything they had, starting from scissors to hands, arses, faces and everything so it just reflects on that playful thing.
AS: In the foyer space it’s like a welcome video of the models in their previous pristine stages.
MW: How did it feel to deliberately start destroying these pristine models?
AS: Really great. I usually don’t like to have objects in a pristine way. Its hard for me to take care about physical material stuff so until I had the object in a really perfect condition I was always really afraid of it and once I started to destroy it I kind of got a more intimate relationship with it I guess. I feel I can just mess around with it rather than things I have to be super careful with. That’s why I really like this space because it’s really beautiful but it’s not a pristine space. That’s why I like the whole Gildengate House because it kind of feels trashy enough to feel free to do anything in it.
MW: How does it feel to display small works in such a large space, on skinny plinths in a vast room?
AS: I think it emphasizes the details of the object just by contrast to the size of the space. Hopefully it will draw people’s attention to it more than if it would be in a smaller space. Of course it was a challenge to fill the space, videos always help for that I guess.
MW: Would you like to display the real parts of sovereign house on a towering plinth, real scale?
AS: I would like to be as big as how I feel in comparison to the models right now to be able to dissect it, not necessarily to exhibit it, just to be able to observe it this way. I don’t think it really matters what scale or what size I’m doing it. It’s more just about the idea of taking it apart and taking the most important bits to a different platform.
MW: If your practice were a building, what would it be?
AS: It would be an ever-changing building. Its walls would be destructed and reconstructed constantly. So it wouldn’t really have a shape, it would have snapshots in time.
MW: Would you be up for doing a drawing to describe that practice?
MW: Where did ‘state of limbo’ come from?
AS: It came from the fact that Sovereign House was abandoned in ‘96 and has been sat in state of limbo, of whether it’ll be kept or demolished. On Google I found an article every three years about plans to demolish it because of an investor doing something in its place, and then two months after, another article that they’d run out of money and they’re not going to demolish it. Actually just about a week ago the whole square got sold but haven’t yet said what their plans are with it. It’s kind of just this state of no one knowing what’s going to happen with it.
MW: If you bought Anglia square, what would do with it?
AS: I wouldn’t want to tell people what to do with it, I guess I would open up all of the spaces and let people play around it; a fun park or perhaps fill it with cafe on the corners.