To shelter, to build a sanctuary, establish one’s ‘place’ in the world is a primary human instinct.
The architectural installations of artist Helen Angell-Preece utilise awkward angles, describing a lived space within – at once familiar, yet also uncomfortable, unfinished and unstable. Hybrid wooden structures that could be sections of stud walling or lean-to roofing, create an extended and defined threshold crossing for the viewer to enter and move through.
This architecture of non-place forces a negotiation of barriers or thresholds that we are unsure whether to enter or keep out. We find ourselves in the position of the stranger or the foreigner, between hostility and hospitality.
Having grown up travelling between Scotland and England, Helen’s practice is a physical mapping of space – using her own body as a measure to understand and to test out the limits of her own ‘space’ or sense of ‘home’ in the world.
Inspiration and a sense of ‘Being-at-Home’ are found in unfamiliar environments and places-in-transition. For example, Edgelands of the city, Non-Places, derelict or construction sites, where objects and architectures are unfinished and impermanent. Here there is a physicality and sense of possibility, a potential for movement and change.
The artist chooses to work with contrasting hard and soft materials – wood and metal, against fabric, wool, and paint, with the intention of exaggerating and enhancing the textures of everyday living. These are universal, non-hierarchical materials through which many of us directly experience the world. The structures framing our buildings, homes and shelters, and the more fluid contact and association of our clothes, bodies, bedlinen and furnishings are invoked.
The artist believes this threshold position to be one of value, a place with multiple viewpoints is a position of power. The ability to recognise we are all strangers, we are all somehow foreigners, may perhaps lead us to a place where,
each would take the risk of other, of difference, without feeling threatened by the existence of an otherness, rather, delighting to increase through the unknown that is there to discover, to respect, to favor, to cherish.
The acknowledgement and integration of a postcolonial discourse into our everyday life and culture is vital. The experience of being a Stranger, a Foreigner is valuable. To take the risk of the displacement of our angle of vision is one that reaps rich rewards, understanding and new ways of thinking and relating with the Other, across fixed, defensive borders and boundaries.
 Cixous, Helene. 1972. ‘Sorties’,The Newly Born WomanLondon: I. B. Tauris P78.