the soul of a nation exhibition – make me feel ashamed of being white


title a soul of a nation

I was fascinated by the idea to see the exhibition “A soul of a Nation” dedicated to the struggle of the black community in America, the birth of the Black Panthers and the black art behind it.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power  is a genuinely revelatory exhibition. It spans the period 1963 to 1983 and there are some 60 artists represented by 150 works; the vast majority of both will be largely unknown to British audiences.

In 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King was assassinated. In the immediate aftermath, a wave of riots broke across America. Known as the Holy Week Uprising, this was a largely spontaneous outpouring of rage and sorrow. Far from the Movement collapsing, it marched forward with renewed fury and determination. To paraphrase Stokely Carmichael, what the crowds had started saying was “Black Power”, and they were to keep on saying it.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense formed in 1966 with the call for the “power to determine the destiny of our black community”. The Organisation of Black American Culture formed a year later with the same wish for black artists.

black panthern

” The Ghetto itself is the Gallery for the Revolutionary Artist” – Emory Douglas.

For many Black artists in this period, a key questions was: where to present their art? Their works was excluded from nearly, all mainstream museums. Linked to this was another questions: which viewers should they address?

These two questions – which are by no means the same – get different answers all through this fantastically dynamic show.

The Spiral group in New York formed specifically to ask what black art could, or should, be. They did not gain as much purchase on the popular imagination as Warhol et al, but black artists nationwide were far from silent.

The show also draws attention to the many artists refused to engage with the established art scene, and instead chose to work with black-owned galleries and public programmes. For example, the ‘Wall of Respect’ in Chicago and the ‘Smokehouse’ wall paintings in Harlem, or work created for newspapers that supported the struggle.

the Wall of respect
The Wall of Respect

It is not, however, an exhibition merely about racial politics – it examines, too, the notion of a “black aesthetic” and whether its practitioners saw themselves as black first and then as artists, or the other way round.

black art 1

Potent, though more straightforward,  like a slap in the face are Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die (1967), and United States of Attica (1971-2). The first shows a chaotic scene of black and white Americans shooting and stabbing each other in the street, even as white and black children cower and comfort one another: it is a scene of slaughter in which everyone is the victim and is clearly influenced by Picasso’s Guernica. The second is a map of the United States in red and green, the colours of Pan-Africanism, commemorating the deaths of 42 men – the majority black inmates – during the Attica Prison Riot for better conditions and political rights.

Die

Not all Lewis and Ringgold’s successors had the same ability to mix the art and the message. Wadsworth Jarrell’s 1971 portrait of Malcolm X, Black Prince, for example, is comprised of brightly coloured letters spelling out one of the activist’s calls-to-arms. It is clever and packs a one-hit impact, but out of its own time it has the look of a hallucinogenic Jimi Hendrix album cover rather than a radical rallying-cry.

malcom X.jpg

 

A soul of a nation is not just an exhibition, it’s a call for change again.

I left the exhibition uncomfortable with myself as white person, ashamed of the past history of white people and even more angry with all those racist morons out there.

I wish I could share
All the love that’s in my heart
Remove all the bars
That keep us apart
I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you’d see and agree
That every man should be free

As the magnificent Nina Simone would say.

 

 

Eco-warriors designers celebrate discarded stuff


Transformation, the exhibition curated by Arpna Gupta by Create Culture put together eight amazing up-cyclers, eco-warriors, material scientists and artists whose work to give second life to unwanted materials.

transformation-title

Create Culture the Indian Design Platform back to the London Design Festival, after its 2015 debut – this time exploring the theme of Transformation.

It takes inspiration from the reuse, re-purposing of everyday Indian objects. Economic growth and rapid urbanization has meant that India has gone through a dramatic transformation in recent years: places that were sleepy towns just a decade ago, have evolved into unrecognizable mega-cities. Both new and old cities produce large quantities of waste, which is by and large poorly managed. Most of the recycling is done by an unorganized group the ‘kabariwallahs’ – who handpick, sort and transport tonnes of waste in every corner of the country.

The exhibition showcases a group of Indian designers embraced the concept of transformation and reuse it as aesthetic principle.

transformation
The Light Wallah – Photo: Emelie Tornberg

Curator Arpna Gupta says: “With so much emphasis on high design and high-tech in typical design shows, an exhibition focusing on waste as a resource brings a new perspective to the international conversation about designing for life in contemporary cities.”

The exhibition is designed by Scottish-Indian artist Jasleen Kaur, whose work is focused on social histories manifested in materials and objects. For this exhibition, she creates display plinths using industrial-sized food cans, 2.5 kg containers for tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, oil and other foodstuffs.

transformation 3.JPG
The Retyrement Plan by Anu Tandor Vieira
During the opening last night I had the opportunity to talk to Alkesh Parmar. Alkesh is a British- Indian design maker. The Light Wallah series that he proposes in Trasformation, it is a series of restyled iconic throwaway items, the clay cup or kulahad. The kulahad are handmade terracotta vassels, usually discard after a single use. He collected and  gives them a new exciting form and transforming in lamps. The second function takes advantage from the shape of the object and the thermal quality of the material. The result is spectacular!

Minimalist and experimental, the work of the  Mumbai based architects  Disney Davis and Nitin Barcha from Studio Material Immaterial. Each project reuse textile material. The Papier – Mache’ are lightings inspired by natural objects, from flowers, mushrooms, to fern and mosses.

transformation-2
Papier- Mache by Material Immaterial, photo: Emelie Tornberg

Transformation gives new creative ideas, pushes the boundaries of design and questions traditional perceptions to new challenges of consumption.

Transformation is part of the London Design Festival.

You can visit the exhibition from 19th -25th September at the Guardian Gallery – Kings Place, 90 York Way, King’s Cross London N1 9GU.

 

Idealistic design to re-think a better world! Welcome to London Design Biennale


For the first year takes place the London Design Biennale this month at the Somerset House. Installation from 37 countries around the world will showcase their idea of Utopia.

somerset

The exhibits look at existing and future solution to create an idealistic and happier world, like wise more hypothetical interpretations of utopia.

The exhibition is held at the Somerset House, the venue is fantastic and partly make the Biennale itself.

Some of the installation are really connected to the main topic, really imaginative some more provoking and difficult to understand…

While some of the installations appear convoluted and tenuously linked to the theme, there is also imaginative, thought-provoking and intuitive work, which proves design’s role in both tackling world issues, and helping to highlight them.

Here are my favorite from the show:

Japan: A Journey Around the Neighbourhood Globe
By Yasuhiro Suzuki

japan        japan3

Japan’s offers a clever look at how design can be interpreted in alternative ways.

The  Artist Yasuhiro Suzuki bases his piece on the Japanese concept of “looking at one thing as if it were another” and distorts everyday objects to make them appear as different things.

Visitors will be look at strange objects which create optical illusions, such as spinning portrait images, an hollow tree stump which has water dripping into it from an unknown place in the ceiling every few seconds.

The piece looks at the endless possibilities of design, and also spreads the message that utopia can be found in being open-minded to different points of view. ( add notes from exhibition)

Lebanon: Mezzing in Lebanon
By Annabel Karim Kassar Architects

Beirut.JPG

 

Lebanon was lucky enough to have been given the entire outdoor River Terrace space of Somerset House  – the perfect setting for a colorful, authentic imitation of the streets of Beirut.

Beirut 2.JPG

Lebanon takes on Utopia  as an interactive pavilion. It looks at how utopia can sometimes be found at home and give visitors the chance to temporarily absorb themselves within the culture of the country.

Visitors can expect a microcosm of Beirut – authentic food and orange juice stalls, a barber, a cinema filled with hand-made mattresses and carpets and an area where they can play backgammon. A giant map of the city covers the floor, a reference to the fact that the city was until recently mainly navigated by landmarks rather than its map system.

Turkey: The Wish Machine
By Autoban

turkey

 

Turkey’s modern-day wishing well is a simple but poignant way of inspiring hope in a country which has been at the pinnacle of the migrant crisis.

Visitors can write their wish on a piece of paper, roll it up and slip it inside a futuristic pod, then step across a tunnel of transparent hexagonal tubes to drop it into the suction-powered machine.

They’ll then see it spiral through the tubes, and even make its way around the West Wing of Somerset House, where the tubes have been laced across the walls.

The destination of the messages is unknown. The installation incites hope and consideration for others through design. It brings an ancient concept ” make a wish”  into 2016 and openly invites visitors to interact with the display.

The London Design Biennale takes place at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA from 7-27 September.

Special thanks to Damn Magazine to invite me to the  London Design Biennale and take part at their event organized by the Belgian Embassy at the Somerset Terrace!

 

Soviet Hippies: peace, love, and freedom in the Soviet Era!


 

soviet-hippies

 

I have always been interested and fascinated by subcultures. Yesterday I came across an amazing exhibition about the  Estonian Hippies  at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch.

“Soviet Hippies” curated by  KIWA and Terje Toomistu  is the result of the anthropological study and recorded interviews with fifteen people from the hippie generation in Estonia. The Soviet West which was distinguished by its unique scene of rock music and bohemian vibe.

stalin

Historically the Khrushchev Thaw (1956‒1964) that followed Stalin’s repressions brought a breath of fresh air to some places in the Soviet Union. In Estonia, which is often regarded as the Soviet West, the access to Finnish television and foreign radio broadcasts was the key source of divergence.

The “free world” were rocking in the spirit of the slogan “Make love not war.” The stagnation that accompanied Brezhnev’s rule (1964-1982), further marked with the events in 1968 in Prague, did not leave much hope for political progress nor the feeling of individual freedom. Thus the generation that grew up in late 1960’s took the world as a big lie and decided just to deal with their own things.

The hippie movement that captivated hundreds of thousands of young people and evoked various social movements in the West in the 1960s had a profound and lasting impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Affected by perceived Western freedoms and inspired by various spiritual traditions, a counterculture of flower children developed in the Soviet Union. Disengaged from the Soviet official ideology of proclaimed atheism, authoritarianism and Soviet morals, the Soviet hippie movement found its expression through rock music, the cult of love, pacifism, actual and cosmic travel, and self-fashioning that was generally considered unacceptable for Soviet citizens.

In the shadow of strict rules and harsh repressions, a colorful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds and other long-haired drop-outs created their own world, their own underground system that connected those who believed in peace, love, and freedom for their bodies and souls.”

hippies

However, the mere trend toward hippie fashions, long hair and great rock concerts was enough to make the Soviet authorities concerned. In the eyes of the KGB, the hippies were poisoned by degraded Western influences, posing real danger to the regime and the moral construction of Homo Sovieticus.

Highly reccomended!


Exhibition opens to the public from Saturday 3rd of September until September 18th From 12noon until 6pm daily. FREE ENTRY!

RED gallery: 1-3 Rivington St, London EC2A 3DT

More information:
Soviet Hippies exhibit homepage: http://www.hipid.ee/english/
Soviet Hippies forthcoming documentary film: http://www.soviethippies.com/
Red Gallery website: http://redgalleryldn.com/soviet-hippies-photography-exhibition-friday-sept-2-2016-1900-to-sun-sept-18-2016-1700/
Powerplant Bookings website: http://powerplantbookings.com/
Kiwa’s website: http://www.kiwanoid.com/;
KULTUSFILM: http://www.kultus.ee/