Two fascinating new exhibitions launching this weekend, both telling the history of our region in unique ways, and the birth of a new Colchester artist collaborative network. Man, Colchester's got skills!
You Can't Beat A Woman is a Heritage Lottery funded exhibition which previews this Sunday, June 17th from 2:30 to 4:30pm and then runs until Saturday 30 June at The Minories.
It's a multidisciplinary exhibition recounting the story of the founding of refuges in East Anglia and East London for women suffering domestic violence: It tells the story of the tenacious grass-roots campaigners who pioneered these vital oases in the struggle for gender equality.
Dr June Freeman, a founder member of Colchester refuge, and Dr Ravi Thiara recorded the oral histories of 35 women who called for public condemnation of domestic violence and demanded protection for its victims. The women set out to establish refuges providing temporary accommodation for women and their children, and were to have a major impact on women’s rights, the feminist movement and local heritage.
Meanwhile, at Firstsite A New Life in Frigg, an exhibition by the artist and graphic designer Scott King kicks off from June 16th. In the show King invites visitors to the fictional town of Frigg, which is based on the former Butlins holiday camp at Clacton-on-Sea. It is part of the artist’s ongoing Butlins-inspired series Britlin’s – a combination of the words 'Britain' and 'Butlins' – that plays with the power of collective nostalgia to reimagine a new society modeled on an idealised vision of the past.
A New Life in Frigg explores the idea of the 1970s holiday camp as utopian micro-societies, remembered through the colourful, hyperreal photography that was used on promotional postcards. These elaborately staged and cinematically lit images have informed the ironic euphoria of Britlin’s’ design vocabulary. Reinforcing the mythologising aspect, the four proposed Britlin’s new towns are named after Anglo-Saxon gods: Frigg, Saxnot, Balder and Loki. Frigg is the goddess of love and wife of Odin, father of the gods.
The exhibition presents a sardonic look at real and imagined notions of the past set in the context of divisive politics and contemporary forms of nationalism. It playfully observes how culture is deployed as an instrument of regeneration – a mechanism seen in seaside towns in the southeast of England.
The exhibition makes use of audio recordings and video footage held at Essex Records Office and the East Anglian Film Archives. It is comprised of a wall-based map of the proposed Frigg township, as well as questionnaires for visitors to fill out that set up satirical scenarios to consider one’s suitability to join the Britlin’s community. (E.g. Do you remember a time when you knew your neighbours?)
So lots to get you thinking, but if you dream of one day exhibiting your own work, then you need to talk to Xav' Marseille.
As a photographer and artist, Xav' recognises that it can be difficult to get your work exhibited in some of the amazing galleries and venues we have in Colchester. A Parisian by birth, Xav' has been in Colchester for over 20 years. He is continually inspired by how creative our town is, and so, to try and create more buzz around our talented local artists' work, he has created the Independent Artists Community. (Follow them on Twitter: @ArtsColchester).
So far there are 10 members, including photographers, illustrators, digital artists and sculptors, showcasing a diversity of mediums. Xav' is hoping that by sharing each other’s work and collaborating, the community can open doors and exhibit locally.
The Independent Artists Community is a free and open group, with all local artists working in all genres and materials welcome. It’s an opportunity to share ideas, and show the public a range of local work. The group is working on potentially exhibiting in Colchester this December so if anyone is interested, please get in touch with Xav' now to be part of it! On Twitter: @xavmars, Instagram: @xavmars1 or Facebook: http://Facebook.com/xavphoto