The Old Fire Station and Modern Art Oxford (5, 6)

Wondering off track to explore more temporary and modern exhibitions in Oxford.
Finding very different and critical point of view at collections of British museums.


The first place we found was an exciting arts venue focused on bringing high quality arts to the community with exhibition space, theatre, dance studio and workshops for artists.

We went straight for their exhibition space which was as large as a bedroom but housed exhibition named Haptic/Tactic.
In association with Craft Council, the exhibition displayed work of 5 makers and their mentors, trying to challenge the upcoming makers and create a creative network that can stimulate new ideas and ways of working, very fitting for a venue which focuses on community and collaboration.
I was very excited to finally see Annie Turner’s work in person as her aesthetics closely relate to my last year’s exploration into containment and architectural structures.
Handling fundamentally tactile work of Bonnie Kemske was a must do experience, especially powerful after a day full of being forbid to touch any artefacts.

The informality of the space and ethos of the established felt very different to the rigid formality of typical museum and its goal for education, despite both housing art or craft based artefacts.


We finished the day at typical whit cube gallery spaces of Modern Art Oxford. Established in 1966, building an international reputation for leading contemporary art and innovative programmes.
“We aim to make contemporary art accessible and engaging to the widest audience through presentation and participation.”

The current exhibition “Invisible Strategies” presents work by British artist Lubaina Himid, born in Zanzibar and one of the forefront members of the British Black Arts Movement.
Her paintings, newspaper collages, sculptures and ceramic interventions were a powerful reflection on the objects we previously seen on that day, in a museum setting, sourced from array of cultures and civilisations across the globe and time.

She is questioning historical ‘truths’ that museums presents, and revealing hidden contexts of museums acquisitions.
In Mr Salt’s Collection, Himid is referencing “renowned British Egyptologist Henry Salt (1780–1827), and with its numbered objects alludes to British colonial trading routes, overseas excavations, collecting and connoisseurship.”
She is excavating stories from the slave trade, tied in with the British colonialism, and how there was not just trade in ancient artefacts or precious commodities, but in human lives too.

Himid is not just pointing the finger at wrongdoers, but raising questions about ownership, representation, value, curation of information, contribution and context, questions so vital in our Field exploration.

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“Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service, 2007 Himid defines Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service as ‘an intervention, a mapping and an excavation. It is a fragile monument to an invisible engine working for nothing in an amazingly greedy machine. It remembers slave servants, sugary food, mahogany furniture, greedy families, tobacco and cotton fabrics but then mixes them with British wild flowers, elegant architecture and African patterns. […] This work is not a memorial but more an encouraging incentive for everyone committed to restoring the balance, revealing the truths and continuing the dialogues.’ “

Her plate intervention was a great example for us of what we could do as proposal for this project. Using museum artefacts to curate and show different side of a plate; even by altering them.

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“Freedom and Change, 1984 ‘Discourse is a primary tool against the weapons used to marginalise and write out of history our contribution / she who writes herstory rewrites history.’ – Maud Sulter, 1990 Freedom and Change is a bold example of Himid’s ‘rewriting of history’, as proposed by the poet, curator and artist Maud Sulter, via the reference to Picasso – the epitome of masculine painterly energy. These women are personifications of freedom and change: they look to the future by embracing the past, yet overturning oppressive colonial histories. By quoting a painting from Picasso’s ‘return to order’ neoclassical period (1918–25), Himid comments on the rampant political conservatism at the height of the Thatcher era.”

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Marek Liska

https://ceramicliska.wordpress.com/

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