ART: Arcadia Missa

Born and bred in Peckham, Rozsa Farkas turned her dream into a reality when she established the Arcadia Missa project almost a year ago on her home turf. The idea was born over bottles of red wine with fellow art student Tom Clark during their time at Central St. Martins college of art and design, where seeking stimulation beyond their degree, the pair self-organised seminars, reading groups and research. After graduating with a 1st in Fine Art, Rozsa founded Arcadia Missa under the railway arches in Peckham Rye; transforming the empty space into a gallery with an office and studios to rent attached. Waitressing at casinos and poker rooms provided Rozsa with the start-up costs of her brave venture. We went to Peckham to visit Rozsa, Tom, Rachel, a contributor at Arcadia Missa, and George the gallery dog at their impressive outfit.

What inspired you to establish your own gallery?

I wanted to be able to further my learning and practice post institution, outside of the traditional MA structure. One of the main things that afforded me a good experience of Art education was working with my peers and collaborating on projects, which weren’t actually part of the course. The social is often what forms the enforcement of a building or institution being a ‘validated’ space, or an active space, so it seemed important to combine a collective practice with a space that existed in ‘reality’.

Image courtesy of Arcadia Missa

Why did you choose Peckham? Can you imagine the area replacing the East End as London’s artists’ quarter?

I chose Peckham as it was where I grew up and live, and along with this the amount of artists and students in the area meant I already had a network of people with whom I went on to work with on projects at Arcadia Missa. Also although there was already and always has been culture, art and spaces which house this, I felt that it wasn’t oversaturated and there wasn’t a venue in the immediate (Peckham Rye) area which was specifically showing New Media, and in particular digital and performative practices, which is where our interests lie. So in a sense there was some selfishness there to do with setting something up which we would want to have/go to in our area.

There has been a lot of commentary about Peckham being the new East London. I think that if put simply then yes, artists can no longer afford East London, and more are moving South of the river where it is cheaper. I do also believe though that it is not a comparison which holds much weight, as the ‘art boom’ which happened there was at a completely different time, what was defined as ‘Art’ has since expanded, the cultural and socio-political backdrop of the UK is ever changing, so constantly sets a different collection of challenges for cultural

Image courtesy of Arcadia Missa

workers (to the ones which premised much of that East London ‘scene’). Peckham and 90’s Shoreditch have different identities, both of which (along with economic factors) can be seen as attractive to artists and art students and although I do not believe this means Peckham is a replica of 90’s Shoreditch I think it is worth being aware of the result of the art explosion in Shoreditch, perhaps if only to avoid being kamikaze artists who may not be able to afford Peckham in the future if it follows the trends of 60’s/70’s West London and 80’s/90’s East London.

How do you go about finding and selecting artists to exhibit in your space?

Various ways, many are friends, or people we meet through the more we do-who we then start having a conversation with. Ideas for projects/shows are born out of these conversations. We also approach artists we admire but have never met. Often we initially look for artists after we have talked about a project conceptually, as in encountering a set of questions to answer and then assessing which artists’ explore these concerns in the most interesting ways.

Can you describe the ethos and mission of Arcadia Missa?

It would take a while, as there is so much we are interested in and want to do, and different people involved want to get different things out of it. Primarily we want to continue working/learning/having an art practice, which is not sought out individually but functions collaboratively, and which continues to variously explore contemporary culture via critique- in both publications and projects/exhibitions.

Tell us about Katja Noviskova and Amalia Ulman’s show 

It’s funny, I’m so excited for this show and really want to talk about it, but I’d also like to keep a bit of mystery around it, as it is an event-based exhibition (24th-27th Feb) by artists who are often termed as ‘internet artists’; so I wouldn’t want to attempt to explain how the virtual will then manifest itself in the gallery space, but rather hope instead that people will see it for themselves. I will say that there are conceptual elements to it, which explore notions around evolutionary successes (of species, trend, product, anything) being fettered to the capacity to reproduce, and the fetishization of a ‘thing’ (or image/object) is often aligned with its exponentially increasing repetition. So for example, with commodities, one may seek (and/or buy) the ‘tools’ for ‘Survival’, yet that search of Survival ends with the acquisition of said ‘tools’ (as importance, instead of lying with the action of Survival, has been continually placed onto an object-product every time said object(s), or images of them, are reproduced or repeated), rather than continuing into function or action.

What is the Survival Series all about?

Image courtesy of Arcadia Missa

It is an attempt to create (through our programme) a constellation of ideas and ideologies, which may contribute to, or oppose, each other. By highlighting differentiations, we can endeavour to understand what ‘Survival’ means and entails in our immediate societal, economical and digital conurbation.

Which titles do you most identify with curator, business woman, artist?

Arcadia Missa is an art group/organisation, we run the studios and gallery space, yet also make work as Arcadia_Missa, produce publications and generally have a symbiotic working relationship as individuals exchanging ideas/working in unison. There are quite a few people in the group, and it morphs/new people join from project to project, depending on each person’s interests. This creates a great working situation, yet leaves it difficult to define a role for myself as a singular entity. The person I work with the most, and who is essentially the other half of the Arcadia Missa process is Tom Clark, curator at Arcadia_Missa and editor of our journal How to Sleep Faster. Between us we do manage to experiment with a curatorial art practice, which I probably choose to identify with most, as I am a Fine Art graduate. I would probably say then I am part of an Art group called Arcadia Missa, which edits a journal, produces writing, artwork and research, and curates a gallery programme.

What are your hopes and plans for Arcadia Missa’s future?

We hope to establish ourselves by continuing and expanding on the project space and publication programme of our 1st year, and we also want to produce more Arcadia_Missa projects that extend outside the gallery building; building on the collaborative network that is our foundation.

Words by Anya Paul

Photography by Hannah Sampson