This week I came across two very different but equally innovative new visual arts initiatives that raise questions about the nature of art, what it can do and who it’s for.
First, at the South London Gallery in Peckham, I was lucky enough to catch the South London Refugee Association’s (SLRA) We Are A Group Of Excellent Women, and though the exhibition comes to an end this week you can still catch it if you’re quick – and it deserves commendation in any case.
The SLRA is a front line community organisation providing specialist advice and support to refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants who are at risk or in crisis because of past trauma or restrictions related to their current immigration status.
Between April 2020 and July 2021, members of the association met weekly online to support and care for each other, to be creative and to organise for change within the UK’s immigration system.
In collaboration with The Feminist Library, also based in Peckham, and home to a large archive collection of feminist literature, the SLRA’s Womens Group has now collectively created a large-scale patchwork quilt which is displayed alongside a zine featuring interviews, photographs and poetry.
The display also features original periodicals and posters from The Feminist Library’s collection that focus on women’s migration and forms part of the No Loose Strands exhibition taking place at the Feminist Library.
In the same week I met Mia Quimpo Gourlay who, together with Madalena Miles, has launched Sibling Collaborative, a grassroots digital arts platform.
If there’s one positive outcome of the pandemic for the arts it’s the way in which artists from all disciplines have embraced online opportunities to reach out and share their work, but the particular value of Sibling Collaborative is the company’s focus on supporting artists themselves and celebrating their process, as opposed to the many other outlets sharing finished works.
Through a collection of publications, digital exhibitions, work-shops and events, this new platform celebrates what the founders call “unfinished projects, half-baked ideas and unexplored passions” in a bid to alter “institutionalised values of art from perfect finished products into a celebration of process and creative curiosity.”
“As an artist myself, I need this platform just as much as the communities we hope to reach” Mia told me.
“We’re not coming from a sense of hierarchy or expertise, but instead we’ve sensed the demand and necessity for supportive environments.
“After so much isolation, it feels natural to be drawn to a collaborative space where I feel safe to create without judgment.
“We want to move away from producing artwork that feels transactional and impersonal” added Madalena.
“Our intention is to create meaningful exchanges with the artists that we represent, and to value them as human beings rather than just for what they produce.”
The new company’s website www.siblingcollaborative.co.uk already features details of a new podcast and will soon announce the forthcoming exhibition titled Existential Rummage, a multi-sensory collection of visual art and soundscapes.
Inclusive of all art forms, identities and every level of creative confidence, Sibling Collaborative promises to embody “the values of this generation’s need for collaboration over competition.”