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The Roommates project exhibit ‘The man who sends me gifts’ in their house share

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 December 2016

Estela Sanchis' The man who sends me gifts, part of The Roommates exhibition project

Estela Sanchis' The man who sends me gifts, part of The Roommates exhibition project

Archant

ZOE PASKETT visits a new exhibition with a little more than a touch of voyeurism, in an occupied bedroom in a Hackney house share

Estela Sanchis' The man who sends me gifts, part of The Roommates exhibition project Estela Sanchis' The man who sends me gifts, part of The Roommates exhibition project

I knock on the door of a house in the heart of Clapton. I am invited up to a small bedroom on the first floor that’s full of people. It’s a normal room: bed, desk, wardrobe, photographs on the walls. At a glance, it’s like any other, but the occupant has turned his private living space into a public art gallery.

The photographs on the walls are not his own, but are part of an exhibition by Estela Sanchis.

“The man who sends me gifts” is an exercise in voyeurism – as is Sanchis’ primary focus in much of her work.

“I received an email from a man I didn’t know, asking me for my address to send me something by ordinary mail,” she says. “During the following three years J kept sending me presents to my address, and later frequent telephone messages. I didn’t know anything about him but his name and that the sender was from Madrid.”

Sanchis invited J to her home and offered him the chance to stay in her apartment alone for 24 hours without leaving. Changing nothing, except placing hidden cameras and handheld cameras with instructions to take pictures himself, Sanchis left him to his own devices.

She observed his movements throughout the day, watching as he read her diary, slept on her side of the bed and riffled through her underwear.

The exhibition is a combination of footage and stills from the hidden cameras and the pictures J had taken.

They have never met, but he still contacts her regularly and she wonders if he will turn up – his first email came after he attended one of her exhibitions.

This is the first project by The Roommates founders Jordi Barreras and Victor Pérez. Barreras will be living in his bedroom as usual, and says that his flatmates are fine with him turning his part of the house into a public art gallery. He and Pérez are intrigued by the multi-layered invasion of privacy this creates when paired with Sanchis’ observations of J staying in her house.

The exhibition raises fascinating questions about the willingness of much of today’s society to share the most intimate aspects of our lives with strangers, and the ethics of voyeurism with consent.

“The man who sends me gifts” runs until February 2017. It is free and open to the public but must be booked by appointment: info@artistsarewelcome.com. Information for future shows: artistsarewelcome.com.

The Roommates are also on the lookout for site specific proposals from emerging artists.

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