It is somehow fitting, given the subject matter of this very good exhibition, that it is housed in Rivington Place which is located in the heart of the now fashionable and expensive lanes of Shoreditch in East London, once home to numerous factories, workshops, breweries and working class houses that supplied much of the capital’s furniture and building trades.
This multi-disciplined collaborative show, comprised of installations, textiles, objects, text, photographs, videos, drawings, paintings and watercolours explores artistic responses to the relationship between exploiter and exploited. It takes you on a fascinating and often poetic journey, unravelling poignant elements of the Indian and British cotton trade, its colonial past and its development in the powerhouse of India’s modern economy.
Much of the story is located in the heart of working class areas of Mumbai that once housed the Indian cotton industry and now, much like Shoreditch, are the scene of battle in an ongoing war in which rich developers seek to drive out the poor and build high rise luxury loft apartments, restaurants and art galleries that only the well-heeled can afford. An offensive sight in London and down-right obscene in Mumbai.
This exhibition succeeds in unfolding a rich and delightful (dare I say it) tapestry of artwork. I would suggest it achieves this because each of the artists and curators combine two crucial elements throughout much of the exhibition.
The first is a recognition that economies are made and remade each day by human beings working together. It is human beings interacting with each other and with nature that creates the world in which we live. The human is central to each work on show here.
The second is that the exhibition avoids the pitfall of being bland and banal. It presents us with a myriad of complex and sometimes cryptic works yet avoids mystification or ambiguity.
I would highly recommend this exhibition – it is something rather special. It is both intelligent and enjoyable and succeeds in underlining the power of art and artists as both witnesses and participants in the world.
Social Fabric is on until 10 March
Women between revolution and counter-revolution
Animated film retells Anne Frank’s story
A pick of the highlights