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Of rights and resistance

28 March 2018 by Stef

Typeface and poster created by 3rd year student Tom Appleton that relates to the student gun protests in the USA

Typeface and poster created by 3rd year student Tom Appleton that relates to the student gun protests in the USA

To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr, International Slavery Museum are hosting a two week public display of graphic design and illustration created by students and staff at Liverpool John Moores University in response to the museum’s civil rights and legacies of slavery collections.

Graphic Arts students Tom Appleton and Vicki Hesketh discuss the development of the project and what we can expect to see in their public display Of rights and resistance.

“To begin the research stage of our work, we were taken on a tour of the Ink and Blood exhibition and museum’s Legacies gallery by the always charismatic tour guide, Yazz. Speaking as a member of the current generation of students, I think that we now consider the impact slavery has on our lives far less than at other times in history. Our tour addressed this early on and presented slavery as a contemporary issue that we, as consumers, are sometimes far too happy to divert our attention from. We were made aware that although this may be considered by some to be a historical issue, slavery is still affecting the lives of millions of people today.

The Ink and Blood exhibition curated by Jean-Francois Manicom, united historical fact with art and design, presenting artefacts, photography and conceptual artworks. One of the most challenging pieces displayed in the exhibition, was Timalle by Francois Piquet. The work is a sculpture of a life-sized person, made from “scrunched reparation forms, evoking a skinned human body, that is bonded and shackled”. The piece also includes a video of Piquet making the sculpture, as well as binding it, and tightening its restraints. As the video progresses, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable for the viewer to watch, as the concept comes into form, and the performance becomes more and more forceful. International Slavery Museum curator Jean-Francois Manicom would later present to our group about his vision for the exhibition. He is passionate about his belief in physical art, believing that the art of any medium should come from the heart, and from the “body”. Timalle presents this notion incredibly literally, in a very memorable, and challenging way showing what creative work has to offer in discussions about slavery and its legacies.

During our time at the International Slavery Museum, we also had the opportunity to view and handle the museum’s collection of items from the civil rights activists and movements in both Britain and the USA. This included signage, music memorabilia, as well as a set of original Black Panther newspapers and African liberation posters. The newspapers were a massive interest point for a large number of the group. The yearning for equality, having endured a lifetime of prejudice and segregation, came across in the fury of the words and the rage of the imagery and gave a strong sense of the anger, violence and desperation involved in the struggle.

We’re now a little under a week away from installing the display and our studios are currently a hive of activity with a range of work being created in response to the things we learned at the museum, as well as considering the wider issues involved with the exhibition’s theme ‘Of Rights and Resistance’. Visitors can expect to see work that reflects on many topical issues such as racism, sexism, inequality faced by LGBTQ communities, gun control in America and the current political climate. The work that people have created takes a wide variety of forms. Some of the work is print-based, while other students have chosen to work with textiles. Parts of the exhibition are interactive and allow visitors to engage with the subject matter directly. Importantly, the work that is being displayed is thought provoking and will hopefully resonate with visitors.

Carnival Headdress inspired by Notting Hill Carnival by 2nd year student Hedi Rutherford-Smith.

Carnival Headdress inspired by Notting Hill Carnival by 2nd year student Hedi Rutherford-Smith.

This project has given us an opportunity to create work that reflects deeply on some of the many human rights issues within our society today. As people, it is deeply important that we recognise and engage with these issues, and are able to identify the need for change. ‘Of Rights and Resistance’ gives a platform for this work and space for our voices to be heard by a wider audience”.

Tom Appleton and Vicki Hesketh

Of rights and resistance will be on display in the Martin Luther King Jr building from 4-17 April 2018.

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