Artists get active on the Brixton Design Trail

    Alan Slingsby visited a few of the dozens of Brixton Design Trail events

    Julie and Ash of Variant Office get ready to hoist their giant sculpture into place at the Brixton Community Base
    Julie and Ash of Variant Office get ready to hoist their giant sculpture into place at the Brixton Community Base

    There’s a lot more to design than sitting around and having a good idea.

    You can catch Brixton Design Trail participants all across town turning ideas on the trail’s theme of Love is Power into reality.

    Julie and Ash of architects Variant Office who are based in Ferndale Road were yesterday (19 September) installing a sculpture in the form of a mass of tubes symbolising the Lovers’ Telephone at the Brixton Community Base building on Talma Road.

    It's a bit of a struggle, but Ash and Julie get the sculpture secured to the ceiling
    It’s a bit of a struggle, but Ash and Julie get the sculpture secured to the ceiling

    Visitors to Lovers’ Telephone, a multi-sensory installation, are encouraged to listen to and share oral histories of Brixton using “listening shells” in the building’s stairway.

    Looped audio recordings in some of the shells feature accounts of Brixtonians from the Windrush generation captured by the Vintage Voices project by Sixteenfeet Productions. Others will allow you to tell your own stories of Brixton.

    There’s a special BDT Lovers’ Telephone event – Come Hear the Love – at the community base at 6pm on Friday (22 September).


    Stunning space

    Hidden treasure – the entrance to Animali Domestici
    Hidden treasure – the entrance to Animali Domestici

    A few minutes’ stroll away from the community base, you’ll find Zuzana Lalikova and colleagues at Animali Domestici – one of Brixton’s best but little-known places.

    For 10 years, manager Fabrizio Palmas has used a stunning space in a listed Victorian building on Saltoun Road just behind the Black Cultural Archives to showcase contemporary Italian design.

    For the design trail, regular items have made way for ID Papers – an exhibition bringing together four artists who live in Brixton. Paper – a medium that can be both fragile and powerful – links the works.

    Zuzana is creating Penelope’s Dream on a seven-metre-long table created from copper tubes.

    [Penelope was the wife of the mythical Greek hero Odysseus. Besieged by potential husbands who believed the hero was dead, she promises to choose one when she has finished the weaving on her loom. Each night she undoes what she had woven the day before, until, at last, Odysseus gets back from his … odyssey, and kills all the suitors.]

    Zuzana prepares to work on Penelope's Dream with Gaya Giacometti's Tappeti Stellati above her seven-metre-long table
    Zuzana prepares to work on Penelope’s Dream with Gaya Giacometti’s Tappeti Stellati above her seven-metre-long table

    Zuzana won’t be undoing any of the tapestry she is creating at one metre a day – taking inspiration from Tappeti Stellati (loose translation Starry Carpet) by Gaya Giacometti, a huge installation of a series of drawings suspended from the gallery’s ceiling. She will also draw inspiration from visitors and other art in the room.

    The other two artists taking part in ID Papers are Roberta Foddai with Pimp My Judd and Katja Behre with Cosmos Wall Lights.

    Donald Judd was a leading exponent of design minimalism. Roberta Foddai has created six pieces furniture that are structurally minimalist but elaborately decorated in an irreverent homage to the great man.

    Katja Behre's wall lights
    Katja Behre’s wall lights

    Katja Behre has used elements of her Elli Popp wallpaper collection in wall lights that portray scenes from inter-planetary travel inspired by the classic sci-fi author Jules Verne.


    Fizzing with ideas

    In contrast to the sunlit elegance of Animali Domestici’s exhibition space, Valentia Studios, at the far end of a long row of railway arches, is a rabbit warren fizzing with design ideas and creations.

    Giant fidget spinner
    Giant fidget spinner

    Its inhabitants are an arts collective determined to sustain the creative energy of Brixton. Visit them and you will find lightboxes, pop abstractions – including a giant motorised fidget spinner – form photography, flying lights and seating couture.

    At the weekend, the studios will host a party thrown by The Bureau of Silly Ideas, who are based in a neighbouring arch, that will showcase some of the bureau’s idiocy and fill the yard outside with Brixton vibes.

    These are just three of what organisers say are more than 40 participants in the design trail.

    You can find more at the BDT website.

    Brixton Community Base: Talma Rd, SW2 1AS. 020 7274 1190.

    Animali Domestici: 1b Saltoun Road, SW2 1EN. 07918 760871.

    Valentia Studios: Arch 21, Valentia Place, SW9 8PJ.