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Video installation “Unfamiliar to Us” opens at the Royal Docks

Exhibition Dates: 26th June – 17th July 2021
The Silver Building, 60 Dock Road, Royal Docks, London E16 1YZ

Unfamiliar to Us is a video installation comprising multiple screens and objects, centred around a film of a performance shot in the artists’ home in one continuous take. The autobiographical work made by visual artist Yorgos Petrou and theatre maker Victor Esses, mediated via a recording, questions the boundaries of what a live performance is.

Unfamiliar to Us is a product of the two creators and life partners working together, to explore how they can expand their family. They use familiar household objects and confessional text to play with language and movement. They share a meal as a pre-recorded conversation talks about what a family consists of for them, they listen to interviews with members of queer families, and they speak of the unsolicited advice they received about becoming parents. As Yorgos and Victor explore their memories, fears and relationship, they seek to reclaim the term family and build themselves the role models that they missed out on as they grew up.
With various screens and angles, audiences have the freedom to watch what they choose – the eyes, the feet, the domestic interior. Unfamiliar to Us explores the relationship between one’s own home and the performance space in autobiographical work. This multi-disciplinary piece crosses between live art, theatre, film and performance art.
Beautifully intimate, full of gentle humour and tender moments, Unfamiliar is a stripped back autobiographical piece about being queer, wanting children and, ultimately, the human desire to create a legacy.
Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou comment, We are so excited to finally be able to show this work, supported with funding from the Royal Docks team, and as part of the Join the Docks festival to which it was selected and developed by. It’s been a time of cancellations and replanning and we embrace every opportunity to connect with others. To make something so comfortable to us become strange and unfamiliar, allowed us to explore the feelings, the hard to communicate stuff that surfaces in our home – trying to have kids as a queer couple is a difficult emotional process, we want to translate all of this into the gallery space and create an embracing, uncomfortable and inspiring experience.
The installation will be accompanied by a workshop, developed in partnership with Queer Newham, for early career artists who want to explore making autobiographical work. Following the workshop Yorgos and Victor will host a conversation on Instagram Live between themselves, a special guest and Queer Newham inviting the public to discuss queer families.
This project is an evolution from Yorgos and Victor’s performance piece Unfamiliar, which premiered at Arcola Theatre in 2019, opening CASA Festival, where it was shortlisted for both the LUKAS Awards 2019 and the Zealous Stories: Performance Prize 2020. The original performance has been developed with support from Brighton Dome, Battersea Arts Centre, The Marlborough, The Finnish Institute London as well as previous funding from Arts Council England and the High Commission of Cyprus (UK).
Frank, intimate […] layered and highly emotional (Camden New Journal).


Royal Docks Enterprise Zone – Cultural Programme

The Royal Docks Enterprise Zone is a joint project between the Mayor of London, the London Borough of Newham, led by Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, and the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP). Culture is at the heart of the Enterprise Zone’s vision for the area, and its plans are for the Royal Docks to be a world-leading location for unique and ambitious events. The Royal Docks will become a global cultural engine room, a place where creative work is made, new ideas are germinated, and cultural participation is open to all. Inspired by its diverse communities, rich heritage, and exceptional water and landscape, the Royal Docks world-class programme will attract visitors, bring people together, nurture local creative talent, and animate public spaces, making the Royal Docks an irresistible destination for visitors and an inspiring home for residents and businesses. For more information see www.royaldocks.london/ or @YourRoyalDocks.

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