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Lying down: ‘Why we must stop policing public spaces’

Woman in chronic pain had hazard tape put around her after she lay down on the floor in a cinema

24 November, 2019 — By Tom Foot

AN artist who has to lie down on the floor several times a day because of chronic pain is challeng­ing perceptions of public places with a thought-provoking installation.

Raquel Meseguer, who has to rest at least three times a day often for up to an hour, is telling the stories of several Camden residents’ struggles with resting at Swiss Cottage Library.

“There was a time when I became very isolated, very scared of going anywhere because my ability to be vertical was so unstable,” said Ms Meseguer, who has been diag­nosed with a debilitating condition.

“My world got really small, and I’ve found that is not uncommon. I thought I would start to challenge the etiquette of public spaces. So I started lying down in trains, at first. Then I started lying down in gallery spaces, so I could see art. I went to the Southbank and I was lying down on the sixth floor – I was lying really neatly, next to the window, very quietly and respectfully. But I was told I wasn’t allowed to and sparked a security alert. Me lying down was a problem, and I felt I had to respond.”

A Crash Course in Cloud Spotting probes the issue of “policing of public places”, she said. Ms Meseguer has interviewed dozens of Camden residents, many with hidden disabilities, about this problem.

One, included in the exhibition, told how one person requested to lie down during a film in a Camden Town cinema, only to be surrounded by black and yellow hazard tape by staff.

Ms Meseguer said “People feel the need to police public space somehow. It is sad, for example, how many people rest in toilets because they feel they can’t lie down in other spaces. It’s a little challenge to society, who are public spaces serving? Theatre, galleries and institutions need to recognise that.”

The exhibition will see 10 people lie down together in “bed-like structures” to listen to stories of Camden residents collected by the artist. Participants will be asked to “broadcast” their own resting patterns through a series of lightbulbs. It gets its name from lying horizontally and cloud-spotting.

She said: “Cloud-spotting in the summer time is one of the things that lets my whole nervous system calm down. I do a lot of things when I rest that are to do with getting centred and grounded again. What I do quite a lot is immerse myself in the sounds of the world.” The installation is look­ing for more experiences of resting in Camden ahead of its launch at the start of January.

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