Johann Arens: Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery
The Basement Programme at Paradise Row, 74a Newman Street, London, W1T 3DB
13 December 2013 - 1 February 2014
From the Press Release
Up until its closure in June 2013 ‘Internet Centre & Habesha Grocery’ had been a busy corner shop offering basic computing services. It was frequented by divers group of customers from the neighbourhood seeking assistance with copying, scanning, gaming, international calls, translation, computer skills, electronic repairs or money transfer.
This installation with the same name fuses the remains of the Café‘s interior with an array of standard exhibition furniture. Wall showcases filled with instructional printouts, dysfunctional computer terminals, worn and deteriorating furniture and bags of green coffee beans under Perspex covers. Shown in and amongst the museum display cases these objects gain an archival value. For those who carry a mobile interface the Internet Café has become a notion of the past, whereas on the outskirts of London this institution is very much alive.
When browsing the desktops and trash bins of the antiquated computers, one gets a layered picture of what sorts of services users required here; CV compiling, long distance coach-tickets, pictures of a flat to be rented out, love notes, snapshots, a business ad for a pedicure salon.
For 50p per hour the Café offered a place to sit down, a personal computer and a headset for a minimum of privacy. Every desk partition was a temporary office for the ones who don’t have one to go to. Aren’s installation becomes a portrait of the particular demographics of the neighbourhood and the social function of Internet Cafes in general.
Johann Arens (b. 1981) was born in Aachen, Germany. After graduating from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, he received a stipend by the Netherlands Foundation of Visual Arts to complete his MFA in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London. Since then he has worked on public commissions assigned by Arnolfini/Art and the Public Realm, Bristol and Jerwood Foundation London. In 2013 he has been awarded the Rome Fellowship in Contemporary Art by the British Academy and has started his residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam this January.
Recent solo presentations were ‘Apple and Pear’ at ASC Gallery in London and ‘Effect Rating’ at De Service Garage in Amsterdam. Amongst others he participated in ‘New Contemporaries’ at the ICA London; ‘No Soul for Sale’ Festival at Tate Modern in London; ‘A useful-looking useless object’ at Sierra Metro in Edinburgh; ‘I’ll explain you everythiinnngggg’, Chert Berlin and ‘Institute for Mathematical Sciences,’ Flat Time House, London.