The Art Exchange in Nottingham are showing two excellent exhibitions this weekend. The first is Fighting Walls – Street Art in Egypt and Iran, which explores how urban art is used to challenge the perceptions of the people of these authoritarian cities. “Tehran and Cairo are largely dominated by state ideological narratives,” though in recent years “a new generation of politically engaged graffiti artists have started a relentless battle for reclaiming ownership of the street.”
The images are striking and provoking, both in the context of the streets that they have been painted, but also in the context of the gallery space, where they are shown simply as photographic prints that are pasted to the concrete walls of the exhibition room, taking away that feeling of separation that normally accompanies art-works on a gallery wall.
The second exhibition is the work of Jimmy Cauty, and consists of a full-size storage container that is fitted with peep-holes, enabling the visitor to find out what is inside. The Aftermath Dislocation Principle consists of a post-riot scene in which police officers in fluorescent jackets are the only remaining people. The views that the peep-holes give us are selective views of a model that represents an urban British cityscape in the midst of civil unrest and a violent meltdown.
The views that the peep-holes give us are selective views of a model that represents an urban British cityscape in the midst of civil unrest and a violent meltdown. The riot has moved on, and its effects are felt and recorded in the miniature scenes being played out.
It’s an interesting dynamic between the two sets of work. On the one hand, the street art depicts a series of provocative interventions into a reality that is defined in stone and concrete walls, while on the other hand, The Aftermath depicts only the traces of the riot and its signs, showing only the traces of the act and not the act itself.
Both works are literally fascinating as they test the viewer to accommodate the shifts and changes in perception that they represent. Jimmy Cauty gave a talk about the origins of the piece and how the process of collaboration has been incorporated into its production.
Both are invigorating, catch them when you can.