Displaced: Art Exhibition and Performance

Thursday 1st October- Friday 23rd October 2015

To celebrate Black History Month, Artist Richey Henderson and mima present displaced. at the Constantine Gallery at Teesside University.

This exhibition features an installation exploring the artist’s own identity as a dual-heritage grandson of a Caribbean migrant, as well as performances during which visitors will be invited to swap items of clothing with him, creating a dialogue around cultural identity and the displacement of the singularity of gender, ethnicity and class, in exchange for adopting multiple rooted identities.

The Installation

Upon arrival, visitors are faced with a full-sized, gilded 24 carat gold door. This golden door alludes to the promise of opportunity presented to migrants invited to come to Britain after World War Two to assist with labour shortages. When visitors to the installation walk around the golden door, they discover a cheaply produced plywood door attached to its reverse. The reverse door suggests the reality of early twentieth century British social housing and bears scars of racially-motivated vandalism and an arson attack. This piece is a metaphor for the experience of migrants who leave their own countries to seek golden opportunities, but arrive to face an often hostile and abusive host community. The title of the piece is taken from The New Colossus by poet Emma Lazarus; an 1883 sonnet addressing the plight of immigrants arriving in the US at the turn of the century.

Around the walls of the installation are short phrases using published press headlines concerning immigration. Visitors are invited to become active participants within the piece by recording their immediate responses to the text on a Blackboard using white chalk. This creates a dialogue that explores concerns around ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations and social issues, when making assumptions and judgments about different cultures based on limited experience.

The interior gallery pillars are covered with hazy scenes of island life. Brilliant tones and translucent veneers of pastel colour, drawn directly onto the surface, suggest an aesthetic of distance. This is juxtaposed with the sparsely furnished and opaque geometric walls that comprise the interior gallery space. In doing so, it creates a rigidly grounded environment that conveys the sense of disorientation and displacement still greeting migrants arriving to Britain today.

carib-life edit

The Performance

During the one-hour performances, visitors to the exhibition are invited to permanently swap the clothes they are wearing with the artist. The performance aims to encourage passive visitors to displaced to become active participants in order to experience a sense of displacement. Throughout the encounters, the artist will invite contributors into conversations around the significance of their clothes and, in particular, how semiotic narratives around what we wear communicate our sense of self. The emerging dialogue examines the links between clothing and identity and suggests the act of swapping clothes as a metaphor for the displacement of the singularity of gender, ethnicity and class, in exchange for adopting multiple rooted identities. Upon completion of the swap, the artist will wear the participants’ clothes throughout the rest of the performance until another swap occurs.

Both performances occur 12:00-13:00 on the 12th and 19th October 2015 at the Constantine Gallery.