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Balfron Tower Inside Out

Rab Harling is a London-based contemporary artist and film maker who investigates the social occupation of space, focusing on how people construct a sense of place, and how the design of built environments reflects and actively produces particular social configurations and political ideologies. Harling’s work intersects with a long-term debate in urban culture and policy regarding the relationships between environment and behaviour, particularly in the context of the current housing crisis in the United Kingdom. His practice-based research has a particular focus on the effects of gentrification on the vulnerable, and in particular on the socially excluded and insecurely housed.

Between 2011 and 2014 Harling captured large-format colour transparencies, from an identical position in 120 of his neighbours’ homes in Ernö Goldfinger’s iconic Grade II* listed brutalist Balfron Tower in East London. The resulting 5×4” transparencies depict a fascinating and moving portrayal of a community fractured and divided by rapidly impending gentrification and social cleansing. Following a reported £30 million refurbishment, a co-development partnership between registered social landlord Poplar HARCA, luxury property developers LondoNewcastle & Telford Homes, all 146 flats will be controversially sold as luxury flats on the open market, the antithesis to their original purpose as provision of social housing.

Artist Profile(s)

Rab Harling

Portrait of Rab Harling
Portrait of Rab Harling

Rab Harling

Graduating from Surrey Institute of Art & Design in 1996 with a BA (Hons.) in Film & Video, specialising in Cinematography, Harling pursued a career in film & television as a camera technician before focussing his attention on stills photography in 2004, allowing him the freedom to pursue and develop the technical training he received in the film industry with his own ideas and passion for experimentation. Awarded an MA in Photography from the London College of Communication in 2010, he subsequently pursued large-scale installation projects, working and living in East London’s controversial but iconic Balfron Tower. Witnessing first-hand the brutality with which working-class communities were being “decanted” and displaced by a Registered Social Landlord working with luxury property developers, he founded Balfron Social Club in 2014 which campaigns for the retention of a minimum of 50% social housing in all regeneration projects built in or upon social housing estates. Harling is also a founding member of Artists Against Social Cleansing.