Text description provided by the architects. Local Collective and Stigma Room – a collective of architects, artists, and researchers – have transformed a ground floor retail into a contemporary bathhouse in Notting Hill, London, for skincare brand Malin+Goetz and the Arts Council England.
The pop-up gallery seeks to reclaim, re-energise, and re-imagine the UK’s high streets - post-pandemic - through a mixed-used strategy of introducing cultural programme into what is usually a consumption-led experience.
The curation, “Zao Tang” (bathhouse in Chinese), stems from an ongoing exploration of the intersection between Asian identity and feminism, and the cultural charge of Asian bathhouses as a ground for social exchange. The gallery not only serves as a platform for creatives of colour and their works to reach a wider community, but also as an open invitation for communities and cultural organisations to connect through art, host activities in this public room, and reclaim ownership of our streets.
“We want to make art accessible for the public and blend it into people’s daily expression. Perhaps on your way to the post office or on your way back from a meeting, we hope there is always a social ground – your urban living room – where you can meet people, join a workshop, soak in art, celebrate diversity and feel connected.” - Lisa Chan, founder of Local Collective.
“We want to use the immersive art-viewing experience to activate community kinships through the physicalisation of social exchange. Use art to connect, give the city back to the locals.” - Shutian Zhou and Cong Ding, co-founders of Stigma Room.
The reception of art is accentuated by the sequence and form of encounter as Local Collective and Stigma Room transform the gallery into a contemporary bathhouse that interweaves the self, community, and heritage. Mimicking the bathing ritual in Asian bathhouses, one is invited to first cleanse the self, washing off pre-conceptions and quotidian concerns through the viewing of Victoria Pham’s video portrait and Stigma’s pseudo-narratives. With the refreshing smell of bergamot by Malin+Goetz, one is then invited to join the others in the public bath for a collective reception and conversation on Hannah Lim’s re-appropriated snuff bottles, Yushi Li’s binary gaze, and Youngsook Choi’s collective grief. The exhibition is both intimate and social, drifting away from traditional art-viewing to an immersive cultural experience. Join the conversation at this public bathhouse, at 230 Portobello Road, London.
“A diverse line-up of six emerging and established female East and Southeast Asian artists, working across a wide range of media, are selected to present a connective strength that speaks about the identity of Asian feminists, provide assurance to under-represented members of Asian communities of London, and invite all members to join in and celebrate cultural diversity.” – Lisa Chan.