Ama-zine!; A Zine Guide to London. by Gwendolyn Faker

We’ve been building a zine library and working on our very own Sweet Art Zine. As we approach our zine release we thought we’d share our favourite hot spots! If you’re a collector or a maker or even if you’re entirely new to the medium there’s a zine out there just for you. Now let’s see if we can’t help you find it.

Wikipedia says; “A zine (/ˈzn/ zeen; short for magazine or fanzine) is most commonly a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier. Usually zines are the product of a single person, or a very small group…”

Now as much as we love wikipedia we prefer to get our knowledge direct from women with real life experience and first hand knowledge. We got in touch with Grrrl Zine Fair founder Lu Williams to talk about zines, zine culture, and what the Grrrl Zine Fair is all about.

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We visited the last Grrrl Zine Fair event where we were able to meet the makers and pick up a few TREASURES to add to our growing zine library. We did a little walk through to share with you, because it sucks to miss out!

 

Now, if you just can’t wait until the next zine fair we’ve got you covered. We’re going to take you across London to all the spots we know, are you ready?!

We’ll start in East London for the first leg of this zine odyssey.

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The Anarchist Book Shop; can be found with a little work at 84b Whitechapel High Street in the East End of London. Founded in 1886 is the largest anarchist publishing house in the country and oldest of its kind in the English speaking world.‘The book publishing arm (Freedom Press) has a history stretching back almost 150 years and has brought pamphlets by luminaries of the time to London audiences and beyond. In the modern era it has published every year since 1984,’ 

 

…except for between 2012 and 2013 following an arson attempt on the building.

It’s secreted down a narrow alley so it’s a little hard to find, obscured by a KFC sign next door. What you’re looking for is a narrow alley a few meters West of the White Chapel Gallery… it’s under the KFC sign. Now once you’re inside the effort you’ve put into finding it will be well worth it. It’s full (literally from floor to ceiling in some places) with flyers, manuals, books, pamphlets, zines, patches, stickers, badges, and much more. Everything you could ever need to start a revolution can be found between these walls. They have an extensive selection of titles on a huge variety of subjects(our favorite being ‘What About the Rapists?’). *You can check out a small selection of what’s in stock from their online shop, but we recommend visiting for the full experience.

Whitechapel Gallery as we mentioned, is literally next door to The Anarchist Bookshop. The gallery is pretty notable; with displays, commissions and archive galleries that are free and open all year round, six days a week. The Gallery also hosts ticketed shows and past exhibitions have included work by Sarah Lucas, Keith Sonnier, Hannah Höch, and a recent takeover by the Geurrilla Girls.

The gallery shop is mostly books with zines here and there. Because it’s a gallery shop what’s on offer changes pretty frequently depending on what’s being shown. In the past we’ve found more than a dozen zines on the shelves.

From there it was on to Brick Lane Books, it’s on Brick Lane(duh!). A few blocks away there’s Beach on Cheshire street. Visiting the area in the week it’s pretty quiet, visiting on a Sunday when the market is in full swing is a whole other story…

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You can continue heading east into Hackney where you can get a real bang for your buck (pound?). If you visit Broadway Market you’ll find Donlon Books, Broadway Bookshop, and Artwords; three small but well stocked shops, all of which have some pretty rad zines. If you make this a destination on any given Saturday and as the name suggests you’ll find another market in full swing.

 

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The final stop in East London is pretty conveniently located as Banner Repeater happens to be on platform 1 at Hackney Downs train station. It’s an Artist-led contemporary art space: a reading room, and experimental project space, founded by Ami Clarke in 2010. Their reading room holds a permanently sited public archive of Artists’ Publishing which you can browse, and a shop that’s always changing but always filled with independently published books and zines.

Heading into the West ; you can visit the ICA, aka The Institute of Contemporary Art. Founded in 1946, the ICA ‘promotes and encourages an understanding of radical art and culture‘. Usually running a varied programme of exhibitions, films, talks and events. The book shop is usually pretty well stocked with a selection of independently published magazines. What you’ll find on offer here is a little glossier than your regular zine fare, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a good old fashioned xerox’d zine on the shelves.

IMG_7040Near Tottenham Court tube you can also stop into Claire de Rouen. Focusing on art, fashion, and photography, the shop in another nearly secret spot (look for the all black door next to the betting shop). Selling beautiful print products in all forms, zines included. Once you’ve managed to find the entrance and make your way up a flight of stairs you’ll find a bright and cozy little shop. With soft light, fresh flowers, and music drifting from a record player at the back this place is hashtag aesthetic.

If you want to indulge your nerdier side(who doesn’t?) hit GOSH! and Orbital comics. Two of the best comic shops in London. Both stock a wide range of new and vintage/collectible comic books and a selection of independently published work. Whether you’re looking for that Archie VS. The Punisher cross over comic, a first issue Spiderman, or trying to get your hands on a copy of SNOTGIRL both of these spots will have you covered, they’ve even got offerings for the manga connoisseur.

Down South there’s The Feminist Library. Started in 1975 as a small collection of contemporary material it is now considered to be the most significant library of feminist material in England contains 7500 books of which 5000 are non-fiction, 500 poetry publications and 1500 periodical titles; many self-published, spanning more than 85 metres of shelving. The Feminist Library Book Shop is open on Saturday (12-5pm). They sell new and used books, periodicals and zines. They also serve coffee and cake and host readings and events.

There’s also 56a which got it’s start when the building was squatted. More of a political centre than a bookshop 56a calls itself an ‘infoshop’. It’s staffed by volunteers and they stock countercultural press. With works that explore everything from (trans)feminism, anti-colonialism, anti-globalisation, environmentalism, squatting, anti-fascism, No Borders, queer politics/organising, anarchism, situationism, autonomism, anti-civilisation, anti-capitalism, radical pedagogy, DIY, bikes, self-care, cooperatives, permaculture, consensus organising, to armed struggle, this place is a pretty radical (literally). They also have a zine library, open ‘til 8pm on Thursdays.

This barely scratches the surface of where you can find zines in London, those are just a few of our favorites.

Did we miss something? Would you like us to check out your zine or zine event?

x Gwendolyn Faker

‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’; a graphic take on the counterculture – by Sarah Kingham

‘Records and Rebels’ at the V&A applies their house style of curatorial ‘cluster-fuck’ to the 1967-70 period, when psychedelia ruled avant garde and pop culture, and mainstream media and advertising rushed to jump on the bandwagon. The aesthetic of the show is more; disparate objects clustered in arbitrary groupings, and headphones (previously utilised in the phenomenally successful ‘David Bowie Is’ show) releasing blasts of various music of the era as you approach the display cases. On one level, this jumble of sound, colour and imagery is justified as appropriate to the times; densely layered and vividly hued visuals were a signature of the graphic design work of the counter culture, as were collages of images or sounds in the arts, and multi-media ‘happenings’ that utilised light shows, sounds and performance.

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Unfortunately some of the connections are just too obvious or gauchely executed to be effective. In one of the several rooms devoted to protest inspired art and objects, Guy Debord’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’, the seminal Situationist attack on visually mediated culture, is displayed as a (presumably first edition) copy inside a gutted old fashioned television. As you approach this the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ blares through the headphones. It’s too gimmicky, too obvious, which is somehow disquieting; you can all too easily imagine a group of creatives around a table throwing out ideas; ‘radical’ exhibition as a precursor for a well-stocked gift shop (which of course there is). The tune ‘Revolution’ doesn’t even seem an appropriate choice, as the ambivalent lyrics advise the imagined young wannabe-revolutionary it addresses to change their head, not their surroundings; and that ‘if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow’. All of which makes this viewer (and listener) wonder if the show is even more vacuous (or possibly much cleverer) than it appears. Along with the crumpled fencing hanging from the ceiling alongside blow ups of Lenin, Marx, Stalin and Angela Davis (despite her commitment to Communism, I’m not sure how she would feel about sharing the space with Uncle Joe), it reads as a strangely garbled retelling of the preoccupations of the day.

Displayed alongside posters advocating gay rights, black power and women’s liberation, and protesting the Vietnam War, is an original, skimpy, costume from space-opera/sexploitation movie ‘Barbarella’, with a quote from director Roger Vadim claiming Barbarella’s disinhibited sexuality as a triumph not just of free love but for women generally. This juxtaposition of genuine politically engaged objects with a supposedly politically ‘justified’ relic of a piece of cult, pulp culture is rendered even more bizarre by its contrast with the other mannequin on display nearby, decked in a ‘recreation’ of a Black Panthers’ uniform of black leather jacket, beret, and trousers.

To be fair on the V&A, they are a design museum, and attempting to reify concepts, especially those as simultaneously charged and vague as ‘rebellion’ or ‘youth’ through objects is problematic at best. The pieces on show include relics of the era; the wicker, high backed chair Black Panther Huey Newton posed in as an armed and radicalised post-colonial African Prince; two of the Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’ satin coats displayed in a re-creation of the album cover, disappointingly gaudy and hideous in the flesh. These share space with the ephemeral, mass produced art-meets-design of the album cover and poster, whether it be advertising a festival or sharing a political or philosophical sentiment.

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Huey Newton seated in wicker chair, 1967: photography attributed to Blair Stapp (shown here reprinted in contemporary poster)

Although the one of a kind objects have an and authenticity and the glamour of celebrity – though more ‘street style’ and less stage costumes and designer wear of the rich and famous might have been truer to a coherent vision of Rebels as well as Records – the strongest objects in the show are often the collisions between the avant garde, graphic design and countercultural and radical politics. Some, like the …and Babies anti-Vietnam poster on display, are so powerful and disturbing that 50 years on they are still painful to view, and hard to imagine living with as ‘decorative’ objects (albeit as serious displays of the political commitments of those who hung them), between pinups of Che and Dylan on the walls of squats and teenage bedrooms.

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‘And babies’ creaated by the AWC, a group of New York based artists whi oppsed the war, using an image of the My Lai Massacre taken by US combat photographer Ronald L. Heaberle in 1969, overlaid by a quote from an interview with US soldier Paul Meadlo who participated in the massacre.

Others show the cornucopia of influence, both on and by the alternative in the graphic arts. The historic inspiration, combining Fin de Siècle and Art Noveau swirls, Dada-like cut and paste and explosions of Victorian circus and Art Deco style lettering, rendered in vivid rainbows of colour is still recognisably present in current design and media.

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Alphons Mucha’s ‘Job’ rolling papers pin-up goes pshychadelic. Poster for Jim Kweskin Jug Band at the Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, 1966.

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The Acid Test, avertising late 1960’s happening, facilitated by Ken Kesey, by Californian artist and designer Wes Wilson.

These aesthetics are still with us today, as is that of the witty and politicised advertising and media style shown in images like Cramer/Saatchi’s 1969 ‘Would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?’ campaign for the Family Planning Association.

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‘Would you be more careful it it was you that got pregnant?’, created by Alan Brooking, Bill Atherton and Jeremy Sinclair for Cremer Saatchi advertising agency, London, 1969.

There is plenty to enjoy here; the sheer exuberance of the graphic design’s elaborate and colourful detail is exhilarating, and the idealistic belief displayed in images and objects of protest is profoundly moving. There are contemporary photographs of protestors at the Pentagon, including a youth poking chrysanthemums into the muzzles of guardsmen’s rifles (the first recorded instance of this kind of protest, and the origin of the term ‘flower power’) and earnest young peaceniks in Grosvenor Square tussling with bobbies in capes and domed helmets, who despite their now endearingly anachronistic appearance seem to be dolling out some fairly brutal treatment. Iconic objects are plentiful; not just that photo of Christine Keeler, but also the contact sheets of the shoot, and the original Establishment club chair she straddled in the picture.

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‘Flower Power’ Antiwar demonstrators, Pentagon Building, 1967 by Bernie Boston.

Unfortunately, the combination of the high price of entry (£16 for a full price ticket), uncomfortably dense crowd, mostly of baby boomers, presumably here on a nostalgia trip, and the incoherent nature of the hang strikes a discordant note with the overarching vision of the era the show attempts to communicate. The mandatory gift shop, overflowing with overpriced objet tenuously linked to the era (and an admittedly cheap selection of reprinted protest badges) only serves to heighten this impression.

‘You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’ is open at the V&A, London until 26 February 2017

Sarah Kingham is a London based artist, writer and academic. Trained in art history, theory, and fine art, she is currently engaged in a Masters in Cultural and Critical studies at Birkbeck University. 

An Interview with Rupert Jaeger

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Rupert Jaeger goes by many titles; artist, spokesperson, and most recently the man behind one of Hundred Years Gallery’s most recent exhibitions, Hostile Takeover. In ‘Hostile Takeover’, Jaeger tackled the topics of commercialism and consumerism, whilst also touching on concepts such as time travel and nostalgia.

In the lead up to his exhibition, Jaeger took to social media, posting obscure video footage and posing as a ‘nefarious financial spirit’ taking over Hundred Years Gallery in Hoxton. The playful way in which he cleverly incorporated the use of storytelling automatically grabbed my attention, and in particular his post on social media channels two weeks prior to his private viewing. (Shown below)

I am a nefarious financial spirit that has taken possession of the Hundred Years Gallery.

This Hostile Takeover is all-encompassing, entailing every physical, spiritual and other intangible aspect that constitutes the very existence of the Hundred Years Gallery.

I am now in possession of the gallery’s financial assets, define its legal structures and as of today have taken complete control of corporate communications, including all Social Media Channels.

Resistance is futile, yet rewards for engagement are plentiful.

Needless to say, the private viewing which fell on the 22nd of September was a huge success. Hundred Year’s Gallery’s Montse Gallego admitted defeat to the financial spirit, and his victory was celebrated throughout the night.

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(Photo from Hundred Years Gallery’s Facebook page)

Following his exhibition, I had a chat to Rupert about the central themes he discusses in his work, and to get a sense of what ‘Hostile Takeover’ was all about.

Q. What drew you to the art of story telling?
A. I consider my life, and life in general, a story. All I do is record what happens around me, and in that sense story telling is an integral part of my life.

Q. Describe Hostile Takeover in a sentence or two
A.
Hostile Takeover is a declaration of love to Capitalism.

Q. With social media websites like Facebook and Instagram reaching their peak of popularity, there seems to be a shift in the values of young people today. More often than not, it seems as though individuals are valuing an experience over consumer goods. As an artist who’s work often focuses on the theme of consumerism, do you personally believe we are seeing an increase or decrease in the need to spend money?
A. Growth is an inherent aspect of capitalism. The need to spend more and more money is a logical consequence of that. In principle, I don’t have a problem with the concept of consumerism or money. My artworks are my products, and if someone is willing to buy those, I see it as an appreciation of what I do. The problem in my opinion is that we have lost the ability to appreciate, let alone love our own products. This loss, ultimately, is being compensated for by attaching an artificial mathematical value to a product, without any real relation to the love that has – or should have – gone into the production of any given product.

Q. You previously worked as the Head of Communications at a global architecture firm. Do you think this has played into your work today as an artist? If so, how?
A.
Yes, my work as HoC at Design International had a huge impact on my work as an artist. In a nutshell, it brought out the antagonist in me. He is a crucial tool for my artistic ambitions. In practical terms, he is as an agent of strategy, and of course he is a key character in the wider story I am trying to tell.

Q. The ‘Antagonist’ and ‘Protagonist’ are recurring characters in your work. Did you always invision that they would play a role in many of your videos, and perhaps even contribute to your image as an artist?
A.
Both characters evolved somewhat organically over the last five years as part of  a series of projects I was undertaking, with the antagonist entering the scene only last year. I have always had ‘bigger plans’ for the characters, but during Hostile Takeover they took on a new meaning that I had not envisioned before. In that sense they have taken on a life of their own that is now beyond my control.

Q. And, for you, do they represent anything in particular?
A.
The Protagonist represents creativity, innocence and curiosity. He is the archetype of the artist, who explores ‘Forbidden Areas’, which most people would not dare to enter. He has the ability to travel in time and enjoys eternal life.
The Antagonist is the Protagonist’s nemesis, even though they ultimately work towards the same goal. He is a skilful navigator of structures that are measured solely in Zeros and Ones, yet he will enter forbidden areas only once the Protagonist has declared them safe. The Antagonist is the Grim Reaper.

To learn more about Rupert Jaeger’s work visit here and here.

Written by Sweet ‘Art’s Melina Payne

Frieze Week Recap by Melina Payne

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It was the biggest week in London’s cultural calendar, and you better believe the Sweet ‘Art team were (more than eagerly) hitting the streets. Yes folks, we’re talking about Frieze Week – a week dedicated to the thing we love the most – art.

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GUERRILLA GIRLS
Guerrilla Girls – Whitechapel Gallery

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Guerrilla Girls revisits their 1986 poster, ‘It’s Even Worse in Europe’

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In their latest exhibition, Guerrilla Girls explores diversity in the European art market (or lack there of)

 ACROSS THE FREE LAND
Across The Free Land by ZUMAR7 – Hundred Years Gallery

In his latest exhibition, ZUMAR7 works a lot with images found on flags and emblems of different countries, and does so in order to tell a story. ZUMAR7’s colourful drawings also explore themes of diversity and international togetherness.

Also included at Hundred Years’ private viewing was work from photographer, Mervyn Diese.

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(Above) By ZUMAR7

SUNDAY ART FAIR
Sunday Art Fair – Ambika

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(Above) By Vanessa Safavi

(Left)  ‘Ltd Los Angeles’ by Anja Salonen, (Right) By Chiara Camoni

THE OTHER ART FAIR
The Other Art Fair – Old Truman Brewery

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(Above) Sweet ‘Art’s very own Corrina and Charlotte

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(Above) Kristina S. William

MODERN PANIC

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JOHN LEE BIRD AT CARNESKYS FINISHING SCHOOL
John Lee Bird

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(Above) pieces by JLB

ARLIGHTON EXHIBITION
Arlington exhibition at Space Studios
Arlington is a multi purpose homeless hostel that hosts an exhibition of residents’ art works each year.  We were given this free art by Chris Bird!

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(Below) The voice of Arlington Zine

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HUMAN NATURE
Human Nature – espaciogallery

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(Above) ‘After Gericault’ by Patrick Blower, (Below) by Sima T Vassilieva

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CALVERT 22
Monumental Propaganda – Calvert 22

Donald Weber’s ‘Monumental Propaganda’ (2016) was a part of Calvert 22’s Power and Architecture series.  (As shown below) Soviet Lenin statues have been destroyed, leaving only empty plinths in their place, prompting ideas of what should replace Lenin.

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By Melina Payne (2016)

Turner Prize 2016 by Charlotte Elliston

In the lead up to Frieze week, I decided to go and check out the 2016 Turner Prize at Tate Britain. Having heard that for the first time, 3 of the artists in the running to win the prize were female, I was interested to check out the works on show.

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Another first for Tate was to allow photography in the exhibition. Someone clearly has seen the opportunities for social media within the exhibition, and realised the selfie potential from the works on display!

The first room presents the artist Helen Marten (who also has an exhibition on currently at the Serpentine I now want to see). Her sculptural works are assemblages of found and manipulated objects – a mixture of the domestic (cotton buds, eggs, money, fruit) and the esoteric (a shed snake-skin?). The blurb from Tate says each sculpture is meant to suggest a “workstation or terminal where some unknown human activity has been interrupted” but both the shapes and randomness of the collections in each piece reminded me more of an animal creating a den or home – the way a bird will collect items purely for shape and colour, with no knowledge or interest in their previous use.

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An aspect of Helen Marten’s work I did find curious, and which none of the reviews I’ve read mentioned, were the curious artist-made aspects of the work. In places, it was evident that metal and plastic had been worked by the artist to form shapes. The most obvious of these was in the first chrysalis-like sculpture formed of interlocking metal parts. Within this sculpture were shapes very reminiscent of a vagina dentata – imagine if Marnie Scarlet’s Vagball from SHE had teeth – this is how clear the reference seemed, to me at least, and yet no mention of this anywhere in the literature I have yet read.

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Next up was Anthea Hamilton’s work and yes, this is the most ‘grammable piece of work in the exhibition, with visitors posing in the ‘crack’ for photos. The piece Project for a Door (After Gaetano Pesce) was created from designs for a New York apartment door through which people would enter. It is possibly a comment on social housing – those of lower social status would have to enter via the rear, but here, in a gallery space, being photographed by affluent visitors, seems to lose any of this. Perhaps if visitors to the exhibition had been forced to actually walk through the doorway it may have been different.

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I preferred this piece of Hamilton’s work. A brick print suit set against a brick print wall. With references to surrealism, and hints of the nature of camouflage, I also felt it referenced ideas of invisibility, blending in, and the way clothes can enhance or deflect notice.

The third room was dedicated to Josephine Pryde, with a mainly photographic display. I had read the text handout on the artist before I entered the room and was excited by the sound of her new works created by Pryde, where she “placed objects on the back of the worktops, and then exposed them to sunlight in London, Athens, and Berlin” as I love a photogram, and was intrigued by the introduction of the domestic – expecting something similar to Běla Kolářová’s work  seen in Double Take earlier this year. I was quite disappointed in the actuality of the piece, where mostly vague shapes were seen on vague backgrounds. In one piece the artist had clearly imposed the word ‘Jo’ herself, and the most interesting of the series was the piece where a griddle had been placed a few times on the worktop, leaving a geometric design.

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The other half of the room was taken up by a scale model of a graffiti covered train, and photographs of hands interacting with objects. These were created to resemble advertising or fashion images but just arranged as to display hands at the point of touching an object – pine cone, lamp, etc. The most noticeable thing for me in these images was the large number of electronic devices chosen – phones and Ipads seemed to dominate. Perhaps this was even more noticeable now that everyone was photographing all of the works in the gallery (yes, I was one of them too!)

The final room led to Michael Dean’s installation. Entering the room, visitors had to negotiate bits of metal, cement chunks and debris which led round into the centre of the room. Bent metal poles and chains formed half-letters, possibly spelling out variants on the word SHORE, which was also present in stickers in the walls and papers on the floor. Hands and fists emerge from piles of rubble, as if trying to escape from a cave-in.

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In the centre of the floor is a huge pile of pennies. This is titled United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016 and is £20,436 in pennies. The government states that this is the minimum a family of 4 require to live on for a year. When installing the piece, Micheal Dean removed one penny, meaning that this family would now be below the poverty line. What strikes me most about this installation is how little the money looks. Although a large pile of pennies, I would image £20,000 worth of pennies to fill a swimming pool, not a few meters of a gallery floor. The installation as a whole seems more thoughtful, political and relevant to the current UK zeitgeist than the other three exhibiting artists. Whilst I loved Hannah Marten’s strange sculptures, I am rooting for Michael Dean to win.

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The Turner Prize is on until 2 January 2016 at Tate Britain

Helen Marten: Drunk Brown House is on until 20 November 2016 at the Serpentine

 

 

SHE: Sweet ‘Art Explores The Construct of Femininity

It’s not every day you approach a room full of art enthusiasts with a tray of breast and vagina shaped cupcakes in one hand, and marzipan tampons in another. However, this is exactly what was asked of me on the opening reception of Sweet ‘Art’s most recent pop-up exhibition. ‘SHE’, as it was appropriately titled, explored the themes of femininity, feminine identity, and issues faced by women locally and internationally. The exhibition worked as an international affair rallied by London’s Sweet ‘Art, which included the collaboration of galleries Pink Monster (Texas, USA) and Sao La (Saigon, Vietnam). Over the event’s two day period, replications of the same curated works were exhibited simultaneously at all three locations. SHE’s London location, or ‘SHE HQ’ if you will, was housed in a stunning two-story Victorian warehouse on Tanner Street, as a part of the Perform Gender Festival hosted by Ugly Duck. The building itself was a work of art, with wood panelled flooring and quirky strips of coloured flamingo wallpaper. Although not a classically feminine building, it had character, and worked as the perfect location to house the works of over 60 artists.

At its core, SHE explored the idea of what it means to be a woman. Whilst some artists chose to celebrate notions of femininity in our society, others critiqued them. Regardless, the exhibition undoubtedly felt like a safe space for women to express any and every one of their thoughts on the matter. Female sexuality and empowerment was perhaps one of the most prevalent topics of discussion. Many artists pieces worked to celebrate the female form (amongst other things) – those of which included Peter D’Alessandri’s ‘Arrangement on Red Carpet’ and Laura New’s ‘#Freethenipple’. In a world where there are so many restrictions and limitations on the female body, I’m not afraid to say that it was good to see a few dozen ‘free nipples’. Whether one was staring up at you from the ground (in the case of Seana Wilson’s boob pile – ‘Cairn O Mam’) or being shoved into your mouth covered in icing, there sure was a hell of a lot of them.

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Two pieces that I found quite extraordinary were Seana Wilson’s ‘Cairn O Mam’ and Marnie Scarlet’s ‘Vagball’. The two works, despite being completely different in shape and medium, had a strikingly similar effect on me. On one hand, Seana Wilson’s ‘Cairn O Mam’ consisted of 20-30 odd plaster cast ceramic breasts that were positioned in a somewhat neatly arranged pile on the ground of the venue. On the other hand, Marnie Scarlet’s ‘Vagball’ was a large inflatable vagina – imposing, strong and bold in colour. Both pieces begged to be acknowledged and unapologetically made female sexuality the topic of discussion – a topic that many people may automatically shy away from. They were clever in the way that they incorporated elements of surprise, curiosity and purpose. And, as a result, it was impossible to walk into a room without your focus automatically being drawn to these two pieces.

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2f1b49_f0879e6ed9b343ef9353396e290e069d-mv2_d_6331_4220_s_4_2(Above) Seana Wilson’s ‘Cairn O Mam’, (Below) Marnie Scarlet’s ‘Vagball’

Whilst a wide variety of themes explored by SHE artists felt all too familiar to me – such as gender based stereotypes and expectations, the pressure of beauty standards imposed on women, menstruation and contraception (the list goes on) – there were also other themes, like loss, that I could not yet fully comprehend. Deeply personal pieces like Deborah Griffin’s ‘Mothership Connection: artist, artist’s daughter, artist’s uterus’ truly struck a chord with me. Deborah explained that the uterus in her photo is in fact her own. The effort to which her and her family went to legally obtaining it and transporting it are extraordinary – everything from bike-riding through London with it carefully balancing it on the handlebars, to it unexpectedly not fitting in their fridge.

Many thanks to Deborah and her family for sharing their story with me.

2f1b49_f4f4aadaa0fb4673b09b96a20da0e9ff-mv2_d_6331_4220_s_4_2Artist Deborah Griffin and artwork (‘Mothership Connection: artist, artist’s daughter, artist’s uterus’)

SHE, however, was not solely focused on themes involving women, but it was also greatly focused on international connections. The collaboration between galleries Pink Monster and Sao La also allowed for more minor collaborations to take place between solo artists. Here, 5 artists from the UK were selected by Sweet ‘Art and paired up with 5 artists from either Vietnam or the USA. The aim of the collaboration was for each pair to create an artwork across continents without ever meeting in person, in a celebration of international connectedness and difference. Although the artist’s often struggled to work around the time differences and constraints of technology based communication, the collaboration was ultimately a very rewarding experience, one that undoubtedly paid off. What I can say personally (as a facilitator of one of the collaborations) is that the experience of discussing different artistic styles and appreciating cultural differences allowed for, at least for me, a better understanding of the experiences of women on an international level, and art as a whole.

In conclusion, we are living in a tricky period of time where the change we as a society are demanding is not physically obtainable. It is no longer about passing new laws, but instead, about trying to change the way people think about things. Through new wave feminism and the current fight for civil rights, the only way in which we can provoke change is to educate ourselves and each other on matters of discrimination and inequality. Even in some small way, events like SHE help to do that.

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SHE successfully combined art, femininity, and international connectedness in an exhibition which was both inclusive and fun. Between the company and the free booze (cheers for that The Five Points Brewery) it was hard not to enjoy and genuinely appreciate what the exhibiting artist’s had to offer. Everything I’ve mentioned and more will be included in our soon to be released hard backed archive documentation of the entire SHE process.

Written by Sweet ‘Art’s Melina Payne

Today’s Utopia – A look at ‘Utopian Voices Here and Now’

As a part of their year-long UTOPIA 2016 programme, Somerset House presents ‘Utopian Voices Here and Now’ – a free exhibition curated by Shonagh Marshall.

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I was automatically drawn to Somerset House’s newest exhibition, Utopian Voices Here and Now. Not only were the works of artists like Matthew Stone and Ibrahim Kamara being housed in one of London’s key cultural destinations, but these artists were also exploring contemporary issues very close to my heart. These including issues of gender, sexuality, the human body and climate change. The exploration of these themes felt very close to me; not only as an individual but as a member of the Sweet ‘Art team, and reminded me of the themes our upcoming show ‘SHE’ explores – especially in regards to gender.

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As I roamed the wings of Somerset House, following bold white arrows beneath my feet; I asked myself two questions. Number one; where the hell am I going? (As I was initially unaware that there were multiple wings in which I had to seek out each installation. My bad) and number two, what does my personal utopia look like?

For London-based stylist Ibrahim Kamara and South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman it includes a future in which gender-based attitudes towards fashion are abolished and ‘the individual is be free to choose how best to express their identity’. Here, Kamara and Moolman imagine what menswear might look like in ten years’ time, by photographing local Johannesburg locals in garments sourced from landfill sites and thrift shops.

ff040041-caa6-4f49-82f5-c52acfa745d5(Ibrahim Kamara and Kristin-Lee Moolman – 2026)

As I made my way through the New Wing I stumbled across a large room that housed artists Rosie Hastings and Hannah Quinlan’s work, UK Gay Bar Directory. As I entered I was greeted by several video installations which showed interior shots of 180 gay bars spread throughout the UK. The room itself was also a work of art, supposedly replicating a Queer Community Centre. It even contained pamphlets on LBGTQI issues.

Next; the South Wing. I was hit with an immediate explosion of colour upon entering the Terrace Rooms. Matthew Stone’s Healing With Wounds currently resides there, and explores the idea of interdependence through his digital paintings of interconnected nude bodies. Stone’s new work bridges the gap between his older photography nudes and abstract paintings, creating some of his most visually stunning work yet.

What is interesting is Stone has been quoted in an interview with i-D magazine saying that ‘pre-Brexit he had decided to call the show Healing With Wounds but decided it felt a bit ‘too much’ somehow and worried people might write it off as arty poetic logic’. As a result he was going to call it just Healing. However, after waking up to read the result of the referendum, he immediately changed the title back to Healing With Wounds. He says he ‘knew that the popular political climate had shifted.’

5cc348a2-29fc-42ee-8faa-4250e0f7df3e(Matthew Stone – Healing With Wounds)

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In the face of Brexit, the recent events provoking the Black Lives Matter protests and politicians publicly announcing that they ‘don’t believe in climate change’ (the list goes on) – the artists of Utopian Voices Here and Now fight back and express opinions which I believe accurately represent the opinions of many of the UK’s youth, and beyond. It was an absolute delight to walk the halls of Somerset House this week – even when it was pouring down with rain.

Other artists showcasing their work in Utopian Voices Here and Now include Glacier Girl, Angel Rose and Project O.

df24d9f6-4c05-4a20-9877-5fd3950b8f0b(Glacier Girl @glacier996girl – Refashioning Nature)

Written by Melina Payne.