Alissa Kleist is curator and co-director of Household. Household is based in Sailortown and is an art organisation founded in 2012 that is run collectively by a group of artists, curators and designers.
What I like about working with Household is the collaborative nature of the work that we do. We develop and deliver art projects together with artists and people in the public realm, and work with different communities of interest and place. I come from a visual art background, and though I don’t create artworks myself I love working with artists and their ideas to make new things happen.
I often get asked what a curator does. I usually tell people that traditionally a curator would take care of a collection of objects, artworks or artifacts in a museum, but that contemporary curating includes managing and taking care of artists, artworks, exhibitions, and events in art spaces and in public. The ‘taking care’ bit is most important to me, and at Household we value taking care of each other, the artists and people we work with, and the spaces and places where we live and work.
There are so many beautiful and fascinating stories about Sailortown’s past. One particular fact that I love is that St Joseph’s church used to sit right by the water’s edge (and was known as ‘The Chapel on the Quays’) and that a light on its spire would be the first thing and the last thing that sailors and seafarers saw when they arrived in, and left, Sailortown. The image that that creates is very evocative and for me speaks of the fictional, factual and visual nature of storytelling and the type of ‘image’ that we at Household love to respond to.
One of my favourite projects in Sailortown is the artist residency project that one of our artists, Sol Archer, has been undertaking in the neighbourhood since 2018. Sol has spent a lot of time meeting and getting to know current and former residents from the area and listening to and documenting their stories. Together with Household, he has also initiated and worked on different events with various groups, including a horror film and a Haunted House with local children and young people, and a re-enactment of the stories of the area with an older Sailortown generation. Sol is making a film with the recordings and footage filmed in Sailortown, which we will exhibit in 2021.
My favourite area along the Maritime Mile is around St Joseph’s church, where you can still see some of the old metal tram/train tracks in the street. They are a reminder of all the goods and materials that used to come in and out of Sailortown and I like that they have been retained, to be used again at some stage (perhaps for an art project?).
Working in Sailortown makes me feel connected to its rich past, its present reality, and excited for its future. There is a lot of energy in the area, especially with St Joseph’s set to reopen soon, and it has so much potential. I also enjoy being close to the water and to think of all the other harbour cities across Europe that could be reached if you set off from these shores. My grandparents and great grandparents lived in a not dissimilar area in ‘Amsterdam Noord’ (the north of Amsterdam) and growing up in that city as a child, and having lived in other port cities as an adult, has meant that I have also never lived far from the sea.