Hope is Strong at the Millennium Gallery as Museums Sheffield’s season exploring protest and activism to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act continues.
Whereas Changing Lives – 200 Years of People and Protest in Sheffield, running concurrently at Weston Park Museum, is a collection of protest memorabilia, Hope is Strong shows the art it inspired.
The exhibition whichn examines how artists continue to expose, interrogate and challenge political and social structures, marks the first time work by one of the world’s foremost politically motivated artists, Ai Weiwei, has been shown in Sheffield. The Chinese artist has earned an international reputation for his powerful, provocative work and his unflinching activism has regularly placed his own liberty at risk. On view is his Coca Cola Vase, a 2000-year old Han-dynasty vase, mass produced in its time, hand-painted with the iconic Coca Cola symbol, embodying themes of capitalism, globalisation, value and cultural change.
Also there is Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One is an Injury to All), a powerful chronicle of the confrontations between police and striking miners in South Yorkshire in 1984. The exhibition will see both the work’s original archival material and the film of Deller’s 2001 re-enactment of the events at Orgreave on display together.
Ruth Ewan’s A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World is an ongoing archive of songs addressing a spectrum of social issues in which visitors can select from more than 2,000 records collected since 2003, the time of the Iraq war.
Anglo-Irish painter Sean Scully, long based in America, has contributed a work showing a gun on a broken American flat. “He is known as an abstract painter and this is the first time he has done anything vaguely figurative, but was clearly inspired by Trump and the issue of gun control,” says curator Louisa Briggs. “We were hanging the work on the day news broke of the Florida school massacre.”
Part of The Good Readers, in Le Modèle, FRAC Bretagne, 2017Sharon Kivland
Keith Piper’s On the Seven Rages of Man is a potent exploration of Afro-Carribean identity and experience. Based around seven casts of the artist’s head, it was first exhibited in Sheffield in 1984 but part of the work had been lost. The artist responded to the invitation to revisit it. The heads have been mounted on totem poles with statements on plaques attached to each one with painted canvasses behind.
“The project has been interesting for him,” observes the curator. “His politics have changed since 1984 (when he was 24) and what has happened in the country has changed a lot.”
An installation by Hester Reeve (on behalf of the Emily Davison Lodge, a contemporary reconvening of the activist group originally established after the funeral of the suffragette campaigner). Though best known for her fatal protest at the Epsom Derby, one of her other exploits was to hide in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons overnight on the day of the census in order for her to be registered there. A broom cupboard has been constructed to house Reeve’s video.
Sharon Kivland, an artist who divides her time between Sheffield and Paris, has produced an installation referencing the French Revolution in which a pack of foxes with red Liberation caps and copies of Das Capital in their mouths surround the figure of Marianne, the historic symbol of the French republic.
Hope is Strong continues at the Millennium Gallery until June 10..