Shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014
This publication is made up of a series of photographs taken inside the abandoned Conservative party headquarters at 32 Smith. Award-winning artist Lisa Barnard, was granted access to the abandoned site in 2009 and documented the building and found objects. 32 Smith Square was Conservative Central Office from 1958 to 2004.The building is synonymous with Margaret Thatcher smiling and waving out of the window on the 2nd floor after winning the elections of 1979, 1983 and 1987. However, by 2004 the building became known as ‘Chateau Despair’ to its inhabitants, prior to the Conservatives’ move to Victoria Street. They left behind a mausoleum containing nearly 50 years of their political history, etched on its surfaces and discarded in its corners.
This book features previously unseen photographs of the interior documenting the dulled shades of corporate blue, stained carpets, peeling paintwork and discarded iconography of past alliances. Carefully choreographed portraits of a smiling Thatcher, unearthed in an old cupboard, punctuate the book, jarring with the shabby interior. The book also includes photographs of the objects, or remnants, Barnard found in the building including a blue rosette, an internal envelope, an ornate silver spoon, a balloon and a strip of film negative.
‘Barnard’s project offers an archaeology of the period of Thatcher’s reign from 1979 to 1990, and an autopsy of the theatre and props which helped direct and shape Tory campaigns as they led Britain into an age of banking, individualism and the free market that has defined politics and reconfigured culture since the 1960s. ... Welcome to Chateau Despair... Do you believe in Britain?’ - Sarah James - Lecturer in the History of Art at University College London.
‘For anyone with a passing interest in the connection between politics and space, this apparent eradication of architecture in the presentation of politics at Smith Square may come as a surprise... The photographs show an undignified assembly of thrown-together partitions, botched repairs and a complete lack of even the most basic aesthetic sensibility’ - Jeremy Till , Head of Central St Martins College of Arts and Design