Thursday 19 July 2018

The Hidden Pin Up #22 - Bodies of Colour

There's been a lot going on between this blog post and the last as The Hidden Pin Up now has a date and venue for it's debut performance! Put Saturday 22nd September in your diaries!

We have been in talks with the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester and are currently working on the order of a day which will include hourly performances with wrap around activities which we are still formulating. So far we are thinking about debates, possible workshops, leaving a legacy and asking other artists to respond to the work.

The Whitworth is housing a new exhibition called Bodies of Colour which ties in perfectly with the themes and ideas which The Hidden Pin Up addresses and will be a great focal point to perform the piece in. With the tag line 'Breaking with stereotypes in the wallpaper collection', the exhibition deals with difficult questions and complex histories surrounding cultural identities and systemic racism as described in the words and images found in the decorative wallpapers on display. 

Some of the pieces date back to the 1800's such as a wallpaper picturing scenes from Uncle Tom's Cabin produced in Manchester in support of the anti slavery movement, Uncle Tom being a stereotypical shorthand for subservience.

Even the most innocent subject carried deeper meaning such as the 1933 Mickey Mouse wallpaper, which was manufactured around the time Mickey Mouse was 'blacking up' in a cartoon version of Uncle Tom. It interested me to note the visual formula for Mickey and his early pals copied the tropes used by black and white minstrels with their white gloves and highlighted mouths.

Other recent pieces produced by artists tackle the exhibition's theme with a jarring blend of both decorative and disturbing such as Robert Gober's 1989 work, Hanging Man/ Sleeping Man. The repeating pattern tells us much of racism in America while the sleeping white man is blissful in his (chosen) ignorance to it.

Wandering around the exhibition I was really impressed with how well it put across the fact that we live with these messages as repetitive backdrops to our lives in much the same way the micro aggressions aimed at women of colour form the work behind The Hidden Pin Up, 

The decorative aspect of the wallpaper somehow manages to make the negative ideology much more acceptable, it almost hides it! Similarly many mirco aggressions are framed in a complementary or repetative way that allow them to go unnoticed by some.

I am so excited to work closely with the exhibition and allow The Hidden Pin Up to add extra context and discussion to the project. Much more to follow as we set our plans in motion . I'll be posting about them as things take shape!