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A weekend of resistance

by <object object at 0x7fc0b5e5c580> last modified 25/04/2022 10:37 AM
A weekend of resistance

Dr Edson Burton Art of Resistance



Dr Edson Burton, curator of Art of Resistance, reflects on curating weekend of activity exploring creative and activism

The Final Frontier was a two-day festival, programmed as part of Art of Resistance, that celebrated the rich history of activism that has happened in Bristol. The festival, and the wider project, explored creative expression in relationship to political movements, ideologies and philosophies.

As the festival curator I have a conceptual oversight of the project and work closely with the wonderful team at Trinity to help build the relationships and coordinate the activities and also problem-solve the things that don’t go according to plan.

"...artefacts, they’re not just Benin Bronzes, they’re simple manifestations of a time"
Dr Edson Burton on 'Art of Resistance'

For the Final Frontier we wanted to curate a 'conference style' event to explore how creative outputs have been integral to particular protest movements. We invited contemporary artists and activists who use creativity as a form of protest to take part in Keynotes addresses, panel discussions and lead workshops. Guests included environmental activist Mikaela Loach, Bristol ‘artists and activists’ Doug Francis (Invisible Circus) Chris Chalkley (PRCS) and Michelle Curtis, plus comedian, programmer and tutor Angie Belcher (Aftermirth) whose recent calls for ‘comedy on prescription’ made headlines, and many, many more.

As part of the weekend, we curated a 'pop-up' mini exhibition that pulled together artworks that used different forms, textures and mediums that celebrated the different kinds of protest that have happened in Bristol. These drew upon the key themes of the wider project including workers' rights, anti-racism, anti-fascism, women’s equality and counter-culture (people breaking out of the mainstream, expressions of living that counter the societal norm). We picked those movements because what was key with a project like this is trying to look at a broader span of mass participation.

We were able to display pull-out banners from The Central Library that charted the history of the suffragette’s movement in Bristol alongside a number of placards from the Black Lives Matter March of 2020 that the Mshed had collected following the protests of 2020. These are simple wood and cardboard placards on posts - that’s the irony of artefacts, they’re not just Benin Bronzes, they’re simple manifestations of a time and when put together with other kinds of sources tell us about what we were thinking and the immediacy of what we were expressing.

People’s Republic of Stokes Croft has been a wonderful ally throughout the project, and it was through them we were introduced to Jamie Gillman who was the artist behind the Bristol Bear, that sat in the Bear Pit and was the herald of the City, the soul of the city. As it was so large, we were only able to display the head and arms!

We had some provocative work by Tamatha-Ann Harris, whose an artist who looks at women’s bodies, sexuality. There was some really evocative work there but I think at the same time for many of us who are looking at these issues it's celebratory rather than offensive.

Through Final Frontier, we’re really keen to, and what I hope we did, honour and acknowledge other communities, and other forms of protest that haven’t had mass participatory scope but nonetheless have been a critical part of activism in the last 20-30 years. We also want to celebrate and engage and honour the activism of movements that are to some extent outside of our chronology, hence we had the banners by Vince Laws hung from a wonderful rope structure that allowed us to display various kinds of disability rights banners charting the history of the disability movement and some of the awful, shocking cases of exclusion that have happened over the years.

Click here to watch a (very) quick tour of the Final Frontier 'pop-up' exhibition

About Art of Resistance

Art of Resistance is a two-year, National Heritage Lottery Funded project charting 100 years of protest in Bristol.

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