Tensed Muscles at Camden Arts Centre
Exhibition Dates: Friday 21 May - Sunday 11 July 2021
Tensed Muscles is a collaboration between photographic artist Steffi Klenz and rappers Boss B & Brownsilla. Through imagery and music, they explore the relationship between the architectural promise of modernist living; of equality and opportunity, and the reality of living in Maiden Lane, Camden in the 40 years since the estate’s inception.
Steffi Klenz is preoccupied with the built environment in her work, critically exploring the notion of place and spatiality. Her work aims to uncover unexpected narratives and traces of history embedded in the places she works in. Camden Alive, is a two-year arts programme devised to connect outstanding artists with residents from Camden’s housing estates. Klenz collaborated with Maiden Lane rappers Boss B & Brownsilla, making an album of images of sounds being shown at Camden Art Centre from 21 May.
Klenz layers images of the neighbourhood, mixed with architectural plans, archive material and hand-drawn medical illustration to unearth what is hidden beneath the surface of the site. Boss B and Brownsilla’s spoken words are embodied via the use of their hands and Klenz represents this link by using Karl Teigel’s Modernist alphabet, inserting hands of the local people currently living on the estate.
Weaving these stories with their own experiences of living and being in London, the artists reflect on what has been, and of its relevance to lives today. The resulting album presents a complex view of Maiden Lane, one of tension and frustration but also of confidence and optimism.
The exhibition of large-scale photographic works, lyrics and music were conceived by the artists during a residency at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. They explored the histories of Maiden Lane, using maps, newspapers, court reports and images.
The album Tensed Muscles will be presented as a booklet and on Spotify. It can also be seen in augmented reality on the Camden People’s Museum app, available through Android and Apple app stores.
There will be live performances from Boss B & Brownsilla during the show, more information and slot booking is available on the Camden Art Centre Website.
Tensed Muscles has been created as part of Camden Alive. A programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates the people of Camden. Camden Alive is a Cultural Impact Award winner as part of the London Borough of Culture programme.
Steffi Klenz said: “This commission was a rare opportunity to be given space to develop work in response to the Maiden Lane Estate and its history, but also to be involved with Boss B and Brownsilla who made me think about ideas of a demanding body, a speaking body in space. Through talking and observing Boss B and Brownsilla perform, I became very interested in hands as metaphor for the body which are used as gestural instruments by hip hop artists to symbolise their human agency. My illustrations came out of the connection between the frequency of Boss B and Brownsilla’ s words, the actual site and the songbirds who have adapted their songs to the environment.”
Boss B said: “This project came along at a time when I was so frustrated as a musician, but Camden Alive provided me with a new producer and project that enabled me to participate and represent my community. Working in the archives was a great experience to learn about the purpose behind the building where I grew up. It’s really allowed me to grow more love for the people who had the ideas and vision that went into building such a beautiful environment. This has given me positive things to speak about in my song writing and It was amazing to work with Steffi’s process because it was so different to mine.”
Martin Clark, Director at Camden Art Centre said: “We are thrilled to be able to give Steffi Klenz, Boss B & Brownsilla the space to show their work, especially following such a challenging year for music, arts, performance and culture. It’s an inspired collaboration between artists, musicians and residents of Camden, and we hope audiences from all over the borough, and beyond, will come and engage with the project.”
Cllr Danny Beales, Cabinet Member for Investing in Communities, Culture & an Inclusive Economy said: “It’s been a challenging year for the cultural sector and artists, so it’s great to see such an exciting project take place inspired by one of our iconic housing estates Maiden Lane in Camden. Maiden Lane has a long and rich history. Conceived through Camden’s radical spirit and desire to provide significant levels of social housing, the estate remains a place of ongoing activity, an increasingly diverse and mixed community of cultures and ages, bursting with creativity and energy which this project showcases.”
About the Maiden Lane Estate
In 1971 Camden Council acquired 22 acres of land, just off York Way, London from the National Freight Corporation and built the Maiden Lane Estate. 200 years ago, the site was farmland, with ‘Midden Lane’ running through it. This route into London from the north became notorious for highwaymen and footpads until the Midland Railway took over the area and used it as a depot for coal, cattle and sheep.
The Maiden Lane estate, designed by architects Benson and Forsyth, was a visionary, modernist scheme which included plans for 400 new homes, shops, sports facilities, a community centre, a primary school and open spaces. Due to financial pressures in the late 1970s the plans were not fully realised, resulting in a split site and years of practical and social challenges.
About Boss B & Brownsilla
Boss B and Brownsilla are early career rap artists from Maiden Lane, Camden. They make music when they can, releasing new tracks through social media channels. This is their first album working together but both grew up on the Maiden Lane estate and have close connections with the space.
Steffi Klenz is an internationally exhibiting artist and Reader in Photography at the School of Fine Art and Photography at the University for the Creative Arts. Her photographic practice has been consistently preoccupied with the built environment, critically exploring the notion of place and spatiality.
Her work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally at the Wellcome Collection, The British Museum, The Royal Academy in London, FotoMuseum Antwerp, the Los Angeles Centre for Digital Arts, the Phoenix Art Museum, The Fine Art Museum Luleå, The Finish Museum of Photography, The SeaCity Museum in Southampton, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Kunstverein Ludwigshafen and Museum Künstlerkolonie in Darmstadt.
About Camden Alive
your story our culture
Camden Alive is a programme of arts and cultural events that celebrates the people of Camden. Sharing our diverse heritage through creativity, Camden Alive captures the sights, sounds and spirit of the borough and what it means to live and work in Camden. Through music, dance, fashion, design, performance and visual art the stories of our neighbourhoods unfold and are showcased through the virtual Camden People’s Museum. Presented through web-based augmented reality the museum illuminates and animates these stories, revealing the vibrant individual and collective culture of Camden.
Camden Alive brings people, artists and cultural organisations together to share ideas, tell their stories and create something new – through creative conversations ideas spark and inspire the resident-led creation of artworks, performance and cultural exchange.
During 2019 and 2020 Camden Alive worked with residents of 10 social housing estates, 32 artists and members of 6 community groups across Camden developing ideas and new work.
These artworks, stories and ideas will be showcased through exhibition, screenings, shows and special events throughout the spring and summer of 2021.
Camden Alive is a Cultural Impact Award winner as part of the Mayor’s London Borough of Culture.
London Borough of Culture is a Mayor of London initiative with support from the City of London Corporation’s Charity, City Bridge Trust and Airbnb.
About Camden Art Centre
Camden Art Centre is a place for art and artists; a place for the curious, the novice and the expert alike. It’s a place to see, to make, to learn and to talk about contemporary art, whether in our building, attending off-site projects or via our digital forums.
Camden Art Centre was originally built as a public library and now combines historic architecture with open, modern spaces, a café, bookshop and secluded garden, with free entry for all. Through our programme of exhibitions, learning, courses, events and residencies, we invite everyone to engage with art and the people that make it – to push boundaries and connect to their own creativity. Our off-site projects share our work with diverse communities and our digital, publishing and broadcast platforms help us connect art, artists and people in ever more immediate and interesting ways.
As a charity rooted in our North West London community, we foster a sense of belonging in our spaces. Working closely with local schools, community groups and specialist partners we nurture the next generation of artists, from early years to adulthood, enabling everyone to get up close to art, to meet artists and to make work themselves. Our targeted programmes and sector leadership increase our impact, bringing the arts to those most in need. See camdenartcentre.org to discover more.