Focusing on the textile industry and its relation to capital, labour, colonialism, international trade and radical politics ,the exhibition examines the social and economic role of textiles, particularly in India. Its starting point are works by artists Alice Creischer about the circulation of global commodities and by Sudhir Patwardhan who records the impact of the textile industry on Mumbai. Showing alongside are new artists' commissions, films, books, fabrics, prints and audio recordings.
Iniva presents Social Fabric, an exhibition that uses textiles to explore colonial history, international trade, labour and militant politics. In the 19th century Karl Marx gave an account of the cotton trade tracking fifty years of boom and bust and the effects this had on workers in Britain and the colonies. This exhibition cross references different accounts of textile history, focusing on works by two contemporary artists Sudhir Patwardhan and Alice Creischer, presented alongside an extensive range of recent and historical archival material.
Alice Creischer's large-scale installation Apparatus for the Osmotic Compensation of the Pressure of Wealth during the Contemplation of Poverty tracks the threads that connect cycles of investment, disinvestment and decline. Inspired by a trip to India, the work looks at the economic and social impact of European colonialism and subsequent globalization. The craze for Indian Chintz caused protest amongst Spitalfields weavers in 1719, and a century later the restrictions on imports and the flooding of the Indian market turned the country from exporter to an importer, and devastated whole sections of its textile industry. This led to Gandhi's choice of the spinning wheel as a symbol of decolonisation, and caused Nehru to comment that—the history of cotton and textiles is not only the history of growth of modern industry in India, but in a sense it might be considered the history of India.'
Since the mid-1970s, Sudhir Patwardhan has depicted Mumbai and its urban proletariat. His painting Lower Parel (2001) shows 'Girangaon' (mill village) where the cotton mills that transformed the city's economy and led the Indian industrial revolution were located. By the 1970s textiles employed one in three of the city's workers and sucked in migrants from surrounding regions. New social institutions evolved with forms of cultural expression including street theatre, poetry and music. It was a hub for trade union activity and left politics. Lower Parel depicts this area after the mills closed following the 1982–3 strike, the largest and longest in history. It superimposes different urban strata—defunct factories, new small scale enterprises and high rise luxury apartments and invokes the workers struggle to keep the mills going and resist gentrification.
References in these works are developed through an extensive display of archival loans and artist interventions, including Company Paintings, Indian Chintz, Marx's journals, films, photographs, newspaper articles and recordings of mill workers testimonies. A curtain and two support structures, a table and wall unit, have been designed by Celine Condorelli to display the archival material.
A dynamic programme of events runs alongside the exhibition, including film screenings, talks by the artists, a workshop with Indian trade unionist Meena Menon, and a symposium.
Artists in the exhibition: Alice Creischer, Celine Condorelli, Archana Hande, Sudhir Patwardhan, Raqs Media Collective, Andreas Siekmann.
Screening programme: Ashim Ahluwalia, Anjali Monteiro, K.P. Jayasankar, The Otolith Group, Madhusree Dutta, Tushar Joag, Anand Patwardhan.
Research: Meena Menon, Jyotindra Jain, Prasad Shetty and Rupali Gupte.
Social Fabric is curated by Grant Watson, in collaboration with Christine Checinska, Nida Ghouse, Shanay Jhaveri, Nada Raza and Karen Roswell.
Social Fabric will tour to Lunds Konsthall from the 6th of April to the 27th of May 2012.
Iniva - Institute of International Visual Arts
Rivington Place - London
Opening hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 11am–6pm, Late Thursdays: 11am–9pm, Saturday: 12–6pm, closed Sundays and Mondays.