Sunday, 27 January 2013

Remembering who we are - the event

To celebrate the last of day of the Shape and Situate exhibition at Space Station Sixty-Five, Melanie Maddison and I put together this one day extravaganza showcasing art that seeks to address lost or hidden radical history and document current social movements.

We displayed a huge selection of Celebrate People's History posters, covering radical historical moments all the way from The Diggers through to the Wisconsin Worker's Uprising.

So many, in fact, that the giant wall wasn't big enough and we had to spill onto the back wall of the gallery.

We displayed the beautiful Occuprint Portfolio in what we believe was the first UK exhibition of these limited edition screen prints. (Please tell us if we are wrong!)

This dog excitedly agreed that strike/occupy was the correct answer and attempted to occupy the plynth that was displaying the poster editions of the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

We screened films about some of the incredible members of the Justseeds Artists Cooperative including Mary Tremonte, Melanie Cervantes, Jesus Barraza and a three part documentary on Favianna Rodriguez.

While we are always impressed by the work being done by artist activists based in North America, we wanted to use the day as an opportunity to highlight the people who are doing similar work in the UK. So we invited Pete Willis to come display a poster version of his self-published Great Anarchists zine and talk about the project. 

We also asked Edd Baldry to come talk about his intricate comics and illustrations that address issues like police brutality and social uprisings. 

Although she unfortunately came down with flu and couldn't make it, we screened two films that are part of Margareta Kern's Strike 1984 series. These were an incredible archive documenting women's involvement in the Miner's Strike and the political awareness they developed through self-organising and solidarity.

Melanie talked about her ongoing Shape and Situate: Posters of Inspirational European Women project and had a lively discussion with the audience. She tried her best to hide in the dark but we managed to photograph her anyway.

I on the other hand hid at the back of the room in semi-darkness and talked about the Caged Bird Club as well as my street art and poster design

The Caged Bird Club also provided an interactive installation in a small room in the gallery. It was a children's blanket fort designed as a creative space where people could read and work on contributions to the collaborative zine we are developing off the back of this event. It involved some new prints on fabric of some of the subjects I've covered before. In the doorway greeting everyone was one of my favourite British challengers of the rich and privileged, Benny Rothman.

Inside was a new diptych of wonderful street artist Margaret Kilgallen, who had previously been wheat pasted in St. Ives and Cardiff. As always, it was an excuse to practice complicated typography, this time to tell people where they were or perhaps what they were doing.

I also put up a new version of my adorable niece. This time she got a flowery scarf.

Although there was a sign telling people to go in, relax and have fun, I don't think it was necessary since they seemed to get it right away.

It also seemed like people were happy to be productive in there. We provided them with paper, pencils and markers as well as inspirational reading materials.

The idea was to allow everyone to feel like a kid again, remembering the times when being creative and questioning things were seen as normal. Too many of us have both of those tendencies squeezed out of us in the name of "growing up". Although it didn't look like the people who attended had been all that stifled.

To top off this already amazing day, my band, Rhythms of Resistance performed to close the event. People stood out in the cold to listen. And danced!

While I was frolicking in a blanket fort and talking about art and activism, most of the band were busy playing at a demo to stop the closure of the Lewisham A&E department, yet another part of this government's plan to destroy the country while they are still in office. But they still came to play and support this event in huge numbers. 

I've now been living in London nearly 12 years and many of those years were spent feeling isolated and longing for a community of artists, activists and good people in my life. Now, on my 36th birthday, I can appreciate that I have absolutely found my people and feel proud that I am actively involved in creating and sustaining that community.

No comments: