Verity-Jane Keefe – Living Together

Friday, 01 January 2021

Living Together is a unique major art commission by Verity-Jane Keefe which forms part of a wider programme celebrating the centenary of the Becontree estate in Barking and Dagenham and culminates Keefe’s many years of work in and about the estate. It will look at the past 100 years of social housing through the lens of Becontree, which was once the largest social housing estate in the world; looking at its past, the present and into the future. The project will run live through the year during an urgent period of economic, social and political change and the ever-evolving backdrop of Covid-19, which will be absorbed and responded to within the production of works.

Using a broad range of artistic strategies this large-scale commission will produce a new collection as an artwork for the estate through site-specific engagement work. Keefe’s research-based multidisciplinary practice includes film, photography, objects and text which is often created in response to encounters with people and spaces. This approach will inform the production of the collection and will be made visible throughout the year in an ongoing public programme, an online viewing platform, LT TV, and an exhibition at RIBA London.

Taking as its starting point the edges of formal archives, the work explores the complexities of life as it is today, through key issues such as industrialisation, de-industrialisation, immigration, east-end drift, trade unionism, work, workers’ rights, the left, the right, the far left, the far right, regeneration, neoliberalism and some hefty changes to housing policy and notably and visibly, The Right to Buy. It will reveal and give status to the often invisible lived experience of a place which includes wide-reaching subject matter, as well as reflecting upon the anecdotal, recording the local vernacular of people and the built environment which will involve creating a Becontree specific material palette. 

Living Together is not the conclusive or exclusive story of the Becontree Estate, nor a history lesson in social housing, these exist elsewhere. It is for, with, about, on and off the Estate. This project proposes the questions: Can a place ever be finished? What makes a town or estate complete? Who records and documents this completion and complexity? The building of Becontree was completed in 1935 when the red ribbon was cut, subsequently, the following years have seen an undoing and countless additions to this complete vision via occupation, living, changes to local and national policy, and the ever-changing and enduring presence of the individual.

Follow Living Together over the year at www.livingtogether.org.uk where all opportunities and happenings will be listed.

Happy-beginning-of-the-centenary-to-you Becontree. Living Together is being delivered with a large supporting cast of local residents, partners and community groups. Keefe has been working for the last two years to test, shape and develop social structures and activities as a way to inform the 2021 programme of activity. The programme will evolve and adapt over the year in response to the process. Working closely with Valence House Archives on the legacy of The Becontree Collection and archival training opportunities with local residents There will be a project HQ at The White House in Becontree which will be made public at points over the year, when safe to do so.