With America in the claws of Trump, Britain on the precipice of Brexit and the power of big corporations stronger than ever, a new campaign to launch a book of the social history around protest is perfectly timed.
Having spent years documenting the protests of the late 80s and 90s, Matthew Smith has built up an extensive catalogue of images which embody the rawness and freedom of an earlier age. It was a time of rave culture and parties, where dance music was a refuge for the disenfranchised and the ostracised, uniting disparate sub-cultures into one mass movement.
Matthew Smith’s archives chronicles events that happened across the UK, and offer a rare and honest insight into the spirit of the times; the photographs depict stories rarely told.
It is now 23 years since Government acted to constrain youth culture in the UK by law and, Smith says “it is time to tell that story from the inside.”
“My intention was to bear witness to this culture and to provide a positive personal truth in order to counter mass media and political representation of the lowest kind.” Help bring the incredible archives into print by supporting the campaign on kickstarter, and thereby ensuring the legacy of protest and community remains enshrined in the contemporary mind.
Founded in New York in 1985, the anonymous art collective – the Guerrilla Girls – are finally getting their own, dedicated show. Set to commence this October at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, it is a long-awaited spotlight on over three decades of important work they have done in highlighting the staggering inequalities that take place both historically – and currently – in the art world.
Though the group has seen members come and go over the years, one thing unifies: all participants take the names of dead women – Frida Khalo, Georgia O’Keeffe – and conceal their identities with gorilla masks when appearing in public.
‘Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met. Museum?’, 2012, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery
Speaking to The Guardian earlier this week, Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery reiterated the real need for such an exhibition to take place, and further demonstrated why the Guerrilla Girls are so vital. “I was just at the Kunstmuseum in Basel where they have just rehung the entire collection from 1900 to the present and I think there are five women.” She said. “Sadly it is still an issue.”
‘It’s Even Worse In Europe’, 1986, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery
Entitled ‘Is It Even Worse In Europe?’, the new show will feature famous works such as the 1986 inspiration behind the aforementioned title, as well as ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met museum?’ and ‘Pop Quiz’. However, the large crux of the exhibition will be based on the results of 400 questionnaires that the Whitechapel Gallery have commissioned the group to send out to European museum directors, including their own.
‘Pop Quiz’, 2016, Courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery
In a public statement, the Guerrilla Girls said: “With this project, we wanted to pose the question, ‘Are museums today presenting a diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power?’ Our research into this will be presented at Whitechapel Gallery this fall.”
Let’s see, shall we?
‘Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe?’ will be co-curated by Nayia Yiakoumaki, and runs from 1 October 2016 – 5 March 2017; entry is free.
Main image: by Andrew Hindraker