Season of Protest and Activism at New Art Exchange
From the legend of Robin Hood to the Luddites to our thriving independent districts, Nottingham has long been established as a rebel city. It’s the season of protest and activism at the New Art Exchange this Autumn and the gallery is hosting a series of exhibitions to celebrate the city’s rebellious spirit and political defiance around the world.
Fighting Walls: Street Art in Egypt and Iran & A Rebel Scene
The New Art Exchange has brought together Egypt and Iran over their shared response to each country’s political struggles. In the absence of free speech, the two distinct nations have taken to the walls of their cities to open a dialogue between civilians, activist groups and governmental powers, using urban art to protest and express their views.
The lower floor gallery is set out to replicate the streets of Tehran and Cairo, featuring large scale images of real graffiti pasted on to the gallery walls. As well as photographs, there are also posters, murals and even a video game which disguise messages in visual forms. It was interesting to distinguish which artworks had been censored by the authorities to change the message they relay.
The locally focused part of the exhibition draws from Nottingham’s history of rebellion, from Robin Hood to the Luddites to the 1950s race riots and even recent involvement in the Black Lives Matter campaign. Material from Nottingham’s ‘Sparrows Nest’ anarchist library and as well as specially commissioned collages from women’s group are on display, documenting the city’s past and current activism.
Jimmy Cauty’s Aftermath Dislocation Principle
The 40ft shipping container, with every square inch plastered in graffiti was the first thing we spotted as we arrived at New Art Exchange. Inside lies a miniature world based on a post-riot landscape, complete flashing blue lights, sirens, police figures and the most intricate of details.
The artist, Jimmy Cauty is co-creator of The KLF, best known for it’s million pound-burning arts incarnation, The K Foundation.
The ADP appeared in Banksy’s Dismaland last summer, and has since been touring places with a history of rebellion. Whilst at New Art Exchange, visitors were given an accompanying pamphlet, revisiting the 1958 race riots, 1981 riots in Hyson Green and the 2011 riots to consider the effect of Nottingham’s protests in shaping the city we know today.