The Art Assassins, the SLG’s young people’s forum, are working alongside historian-in-residence, Dr. Giulia Smith and artists Eleanor Wright, Ilona Sagar, Erik van Lieshout, Cecile B Evans, Lloyd Corporation and Nina Cristante to investigate the Peckham Experiment, a pioneering health movement founded by doctors George Scott Williamson and Innes Hope Pearse in 1925.
Art Assassin Akhera Williams considers how our relationship to health has changed and how autonomy and community played a central part in the utopian vision of the Peckham Experiment.
The Peckham Experiment has been the focus of the Art Assassin’s projects over the last twelve months. At first it seemed to just be about health, a wellness centre set up in the wilderness of pre-NHS Peckham, but the more we delved into the intricacies of this social experiment the more it began to unearth itself as something more: a little bit of utopia that we’d left in a past time.
Nowadays, the approaches that we have to health are abundant, but it seems that most of the population find themselves selling their souls to pharmaceuticals or to youtubers without official qualifications (as dietitians, trainers etc.). The Peckham Experiment was the opposite of these approaches. In a world where quick detoxes and nutribullets would’ve sounded like gadgets from a sci-fi film, something out of this world occurred: the Peckham Experiment gave birth to an idealistic type of living.
During an oral history session with an ex Peckham Experiment member, who told us of her experiences at the Pioneer Centre as a child, the word ‘freedom’ repeated itself like a broken record. She spoke of the open plan architecture of the centre and camping trips to faraway places that expanded her city living perspective. It left me thinking that perhaps today’s holistic health quick fixes, such as packaged yoga and detoxes, are not obsolete because health is a mind and body experience, but what we lack from the times of the Peckham Experiment is the autonomy and community to make utopian health possible.
Art Assassins are a group of young beings aged between 14-21 years old who meet every Tuesday at the South London Gallery. To find out more about the Art Assassins click here.