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Displaced


1 October 2015 - 23 October 2015

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To celebrate Black History Month, we are presenting Displaced by artist Richard Henderson at the Constantine Gallery at Teesside University.

This exhibition features an installation exploring the artist’s own identity as a dual-heritage grandson of a Caribbean migrant, as well as a performance during which visitors are invited to swap items of clothing with him, establishing a dialogue around the adoption of multiple gender, ethnic and class identities.

 

Installation

Upon arrival, you will be faced with a full-sized, gilded 24 carat gold door. This object alludes to the promise of opportunity presented to migrants invited to come to the UK after World War II to assist with labour shortages. When you walk around it, you will discover a cheaply produced plywood door attached to its reverse. This suggests the reality of early twentieth century British social housing and bears scars of racially-motivated vandalism and an arson attack.

This piece is a metaphor for the experience of migrants who leave their own countries to seek golden opportunities, but arrive to face an often hostile and abusive host community. The title of the piece is taken from poet Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus, an 1883 sonnet addressing the plight of immigrants arriving in the US at the turn of the century.

Around the walls of the installation are short phrases using published press headlines concerning immigration. Visitors are invited to become active participants within the piece by recording their immediate responses to the text on a Blackboard using white chalk. This establishes a dialogue that addresses concerns around ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations and social issues.

The interior gallery pillars are covered with hazy scenes of island life. Brilliant tones and translucent veneers of pastel colour, drawn directly onto the surface, suggest an aesthetic of distance. This contrasts with the sparsely furnished and opaque geometric walls that comprise the space. In doing so, it creates a rigidly grounded environment that conveys the sense of disorientation and displacement still greeting migrants arriving to Britain today.

See Special events for Displaced performance on Monday 19 October.


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