Socialist Worker

Exhibitions in Middlesbrough that inspire radicalism

by Antony Hamilton
Issue No. 2562

A photo from the Wilderness Way exhibition depicts the hated Thatcher

A photo from the Wilderness Way exhibition depicts the hated Thatcher (Pic: Peter Reimann, The Gazette)


The Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art (Mima) is far from having million pound paintings hanging on sterile walls.

The museum is highly political and the exhibitions flow into each other from one room to the next.

Starting with an installation focusing on art stolen from Africa by the church, there are slides of artwork and a documentary interviewing members of the Catholic church.

The walls are lined with information about colonialism, Frantz Fanon and dispossession.

The next room holds Eddie Chambers’ The Destruction of the National Front. It shows people beating the fascists by protesting.

This flows into the main exhibition, Wilderness Way, which started after Margaret Thatcher’s visit to Teesside in 1987. It has expanded into a huge interactive description of the 1980s. There are strong connections drawn in the exhibit to the Tories’ austerity and racism today.

Racism

There are direct connections drawn between different struggles, from the Falklands war to marches against racism and the Irish hunger strikers in the 1980s. No punches are pulled.

Industrial disputes are shown alongside royal visits to show how the ruling class deploy their celebrities to distract people from the reality of life in class society. The museum is well rooted in the local community and works as part of Teesside University.

It’s clear about the historic role which migration and Tory policies have played in changing the landscape of the North East.

It’s not just a history lesson, it’s about showing people how we resisted before and what we need to do today in order to succeed.

I would urge anyone to visit and join in the community activities they have planned.

Art is not for the elites but can be used as a tool by ordinary people for real social change

For a list of exhibitions at MIMA, go to visitmima.com/whats-on

Big Fish Theory

US rapper Vince Staples has released his second album, Big Fish Theory, to widespread critical acclaim for its themes, tone, and experimentation with new sounds.

Staples has not been one to shy away from his deprived childhood and once being a member of a local gang.

His work reflects the reality of many African Americans and Hispanic men and women in the US, and particularly how people become a product of their surroundings.

The 12 songs that make up the album paint the story of Staples’ past life and his present—the narrative of the “American dream” of going from poverty to fame and wealth.

But the American dream is fragmented by the constant shock of the reality of racism. One song in particular highlights the contrast of racism and wealth in the states.

Bagbak includes the line, “Pray the police don’t come blow me down ‘cause of my complexion.”

In the same song Staples touches on the prison system being broken, racial war commotion and section eight, a housing act that supports low-income families with rent.

However, this song is not only a narrative of his surroundings and reality, but is about struggle and resistance. The last verse is full of disdain for the 1 percent, the government, and Donald Trump.

I would recommend a listen to this album. Alongside his political standpoint Staples is a great lyricist and is accompanied by the likes of Damon Albarn and Kendrick Lamar.

And, if you can’t get enough Vince, he will be performing in Britain at the end of August.

Naima Omar 

Vince Staples
ARTium
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