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Season of Protest and Activism at New Art Exchange

Article written for Visit Nottinghamshire/New Art Exchange.
The fabled hideout of the legend of Robin Hood, birthplace of the Luddites, home to famously scandalous writers Lord Byron and D. H. Lawrence and site of the UKs early Black Lives Matter protests, the people of Nottingham have long had an unruly history. Now recognised for it's thriving independent music and arts scenes, the city proudly wears its rebel tattoo in plain sight.
As part of the Season of Protest and Activism at the New Art Exchange this Autumn, the gallery is hosting a series of exhibitions and events to celebrate the city’s rebellious DIY spirit, as well as showing solidarity with movements of political defiance around the world.

Fighting Walls: Street Art in Egypt and Iran & A Rebel Scene
Aptly bringing together the nations of Egypt and Iran, the exhbition traces the overlapping ways in which each country has responsed to unease between governing powers and civilians. In the absence of free speech, artists have taken to the walls of their cities to open a dialogue between the general population, activist groups and governmental powers, demonstrating the incredible scope urban artforms have to act as both a voice and a shield.
The lower floor gallery is set out to replicate the streets of Tehran and Cairo, featuring large scale images of bona-fide graffiti convincingly 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 is interesting to distinguish which artworks have been hijacked and and altered by the authorities, when the irony of such censorship backhandedly sanctions the iconoclastic power they hold.
The locally focused part of the exhibition draws on Nottingham’s history of rebellion, from the 1950s race riots to mining strikes, and from women's liberation protests through to the city's recent involvement in the Black Lives Matter campaign. Seldom seen archive material from Nottingham’s ‘Sparrows Nest’ anarchist library can be seen on display alongside specially commissioned collages from women’s groups, documenting the momentum of the city’s past and current activism.
Jimmy Cauty’s Aftermath Dislocation Principle
Artist Jimmy Cauty's latest project may be small in scale, but it is by no means subtle. As one half of The KLF, best known for it’s divisive million-pound-burning arts incarnation, The K Foundation, Cauty is not known for following the rules.
Encased within a graffiti-sprawled 40ft shipping container on a busy street in Hyson Green, the ADP is a model of a city in chaos, created in minute but extraordinary detail. Based on a 'post-riot environment', where only the police and evidence of an uprising remain, the dystopia inside is complete with flashing blue lights, sirens, spray painted slogans and shadowy crime scenes, creating an eerily recognisable landscape and a mood that feels at once exciting and uncomfortable.
The ADP appeared in Banksy’s Dismaland last summer, and has since been touring areas of the UK with a reputation for trouble. Whilst at the New Art Exchange, visitors can peer through peepholes and use the context of the 1958 race riots, 1981 riots in Hyson Green and the 2011 youth riots to consider how Nottingham’s rebels have shaped the hard-fought city we know today.

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Jessie Beaumont

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