The group was founded on the 12th of October 2014 by Mathew Tudor as a gallery project based in Vyner St in Bethnal Green, London involving twelve artists engaged in experimental exhibitions. The space was also used as a meeting place to discuss art and as a working environment for some of the artists involved.
There was much debate within the group as to the direction of the gallery which inevitably led to conflicts. Two opposing groups developed one that wanted a traditional gallery and the other that wanted a base for ideas. This volatile situation caused six members of the group to abandon the project. This did not destroy the morale of the remaining artists but merely hardened their resolve to continue developing their ideas and to create the platform or base that was originally proposed.
However the space was forced to close after just four brief months of existence due to the rapid redevelopment taking place in London at the time.
In February 2015 the remaining members of the collective (now just five people) involved themselves in a long debate as to the future. It was decided to continue as a constantly evolving collective project. The main instigators of this new phase where Mathew Tudor, Chris Paul Godber and Jessica Ballantyne. The first exhibition was to take place in March of that year entitled Nostalghia drawing inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky’s film of the same name . The exhibition was designed to restore the confidence of the damaged group and prevent the dispersal of its remaining members.At regular intervals throughout the remainder of the year more exhibitions took place. During this time the group grew rapidly to a total of 31 members. The group went through various stages of development including various name changes; Occupy Art, The Bridge where used until eventually The Tunnel was chosen by Tudor taken from Ernesto Sabato’s novel of the same name.
Third phase: manifestos
In September of 2015 three members of the group, Jamie Stanton, Chris Paul Godber and Mathew Tudor collaborated on a manifesto. The main thrust of the text was to be a critique of consumer culture and the development of the concept of restoring art to prominence in the 21st century. Over the course of the next few months the text went through many revisions until a final draft was ready for presentation to the group in March 2016. After a debate involving several members of the group it was agreed that the Manifesto would be a constantly evolving project with contributions from other members. Chris Paul Godber, Mathew Tudor, Genevieve Leavold, Ashley Chapman and Jamie Stanton became the main theorists of the evolving group.
Fourth Phase: POLITICS
The results of the EU Referendum of the 23rd of June 2016 proved to be a turning point for the group considering the entire group voted to remain a part of the EU (along with the majority of Londoners). The left wing artists felt they could no longer be detached from the society they were living in, and decided to go into a more politicised direction, the beginning of this was the Hunger exhibition which was an uneasy mixture of politics and literature and to some extent reflected the cultural and political turmoil created by the proposed break from Europe. It was decided that the creation of a more politicised group would be inadvisable and that the literary focus should remain intact. Political ideas could express themselves in themes rather than the motivation for each individual artist.
The idea of the individual as the focus of the group became extremely important with the growing threat of Neo-Fascism both in America and Europe. In particular in their home country where the media is being controlled by the government and in some instances closely resembling propaganda, and where all opposition to the government is being suffocated by this press. A propaganda war exists between the right and left calling into question our sense of reality. Certain questions have posed themselves; can The Tunnel remain passive during this extremely chaotic period in British(and European) history? Many discussions have taken place in the group as to the direction we must take. Considering that our spiritual home (London) faces an existential threat from Brexit and Gentrification; the possibility that the group will become fragmented and dispersed grows with each passing day. And it is here that we must make a stand as creative thinkers and intellectuals or we perish.
The Tunnel publishes a zine twice a year containing art work, essays and poems by members of the group, and members also publish their own texts under The Tunnel name.