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'East End Vernacular' presents a magnificent selection of pictures - many never published before - revealing the evolution of painting in the East End of London and tracing the changing character of the streets through the 20th century.
Featuring the paintings of the Ashington Group—a group of miners from an isolated village in Northumberland in England who took an art appreciation class in the 1930s—this revealing history chronicles how the miners came to take up brushes and chisels to learn something of how art is made. It documents their growing fame, their discovery by documentary photographers and filmmakers, and their resistance to interference from the social research organization Mass Observation. Inspired by the world around them, their subjects included clocking in at the mine, work on the coalface, the pithead baths, Saturday night at the club, domestic chores, and World War II. The pitmen’s endeavors produced an account of a community in painting and sculpture which is considered to be without equal or rival. Attracting wide acclaim, the collection toured Europe and China, and eventually found a home in the Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Northumbria.
Since the 1990s, critics and curators have broadly accepted the notion that participatory art is the ultimate political art: that by encouraging an audience to take part an artist can promote new emancipatory social relations. Around the world, the champions of this form of expression are numerous, ranging from art historians such as Grant Kester, curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Nato Thompson, to performance theorists such as Shannon Jackson. Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” Claire Bishop follows the trajectory of twentieth-century art and examines key moments in the development of a participatory aesthetic. This itinerary takes in Futurism and Dada; the Situationist International; Happenings in Eastern Europe, Argentina and Paris; the 1970s Community Arts Movement; and the Artists Placement Group. It concludes with a discussion of long-term educational projects by contemporary artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Pawe? Althamer and Paul Chan. Since her controversial essay in Artforum in 2006, Claire Bishop has been one of the few to challenge the political and aesthetic ambitions of participatory art. In Artificial Hells, she not only scrutinizes the emancipatory claims made for these projects, but also provides an alternative to the ethical (rather than artistic) criteria invited by such artworks. Artificial Hells calls for a less prescriptive approach to art and politics, and for more compelling, troubling and bolder forms of participatory art and criticism.
When a local photographer stumbled upon 1,000s of David Granick's colour slides in early 2017, he knew he had struck gold. These images capture the post-war streets of Stepney, Whitechapel, Bow and beyond in the warmth of Kodachrome hues at a time when black and white photography was the norm. Left untouched on a library shelf for 37 years, and revealed now for the first time, these photographs show an East London on the cusp of social transition.

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