Irritated Material

Surrounded by many of the larger banks in the financial district in London, you find the new non-profit contemporary Art exhibition centre Raven Row. It’s quite anonymous; you easily walk by the low building with the white front, but finding it is rewarding. While the banks and financiers are busy dealing with the recession and building trust, the current exhibition at Raven Row is dealing with other processes in society; the disobedience, subversive cultural ideas, the Art that is often on the edge of what is accepted by society.

”A history of irritated material” is curated by Danish curator Lars Bang Larsen, who explains the title as referring to the relation between Art, and social and psychological reality. Video clips of protest marches, freedom fighters, witness stories, and trials are shown in a set of TVs, works of the New York based Group Material is exhibited together with Artists like Swedish Sture Johannesson. His famous poster from 1968 of the naked woman with a hash-pipe in her hand (Hash Girl) is significant for the exhibition. The poster was done for Lund Art Exhibition Hall (Southern Sweden), but the exhibition was never shown. It was accused of being drug romantic and Sture Johannesson himself stole his controversial posters that made politicians see red from the exhibition hall. The Director at the time, Folke Edwards, was accused of being sex and drug romantic just by showing this work of the well-known Artist. It all ended with the Director leaving his job just after a short time on the post.

Perhaps less subversive, but definitely not mainstream were two concerts at Union Chapel the previous night. Two Swedish bands played in the church, built in 1876 to 1877, from 1991 used as a venue for cultural events (combined with worship, baptism, weddings). The two-people-band The Tiny, and then First Aid Kit, two young women of 17 and 19 years old, inspired by the hippie and country movement of the 70s combined with new sound. Both wonderful bands that manage to form Artistic talent into their own music, their own thing. Funny we have to go to London to see them.

A walk by Tate Modern also leaves traces. The Polish contemporary Artist Miroslaw Balka and his piece ”How it is” is both overwhelming and scary. The work is a gigantic container placed in the big open hall at Tate. Walking around the container you feel small, yes, tiny, and in one short-end you enter at a large ramp and walk towards the darkness inside. A chill along the spine as scary film-clips of Holocaust where people in masses walked in to uncertainty come to mind, yet when we are walking we are safe. We know that, but still…What will we meet inside? The exhibition keeps itching and irritating the mind the rest of the day.

And among these visits, we do study visits to discuss social entrepreneurship with Ian Baker at School for Social Entrepreneurs, cultural leadership with Venu Dhupa and Nicola Turner, and the development of the workshop ”The Art of living of Art” together with Sian Prime.

Read this text by Lars Bang Larsen on social liability. Some links in relation to School for Social Entrepreneurs are found here, here and for reports and evaluations here. Most photos are taken by Helena Persson, a few with Iphone.

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