Monday, September 24, 2018

Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art opens as Justice for Cleaners wins victory

The Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art is a new public gallery on the Goldsmiths campus in  New Cross (entrance via St James SE14). It is located in part of  the former Laurie Grove Bathhouse, including the water tower for the swimming pool which closed in 1991 (see history here

The opening exhibition features the work of Argentine-born artist Mika Rottenberg, much of it film-based. If the idea of contemporary video art sounds daunting, I recommend going to see this colourful and very accessible show. Some of it would be great for kids - one film shows long nosed men sneezing out rabbits - but it also poses deeper questions, particularly about women's work in the global economy. Several of the film pieces feature women engaged in obscure labours. There are cute rabbits assembled from pearly beads....

A woman is seen crushing coloured light bulbs, in the process creating a brittle collage.

 It is not always clear what the seemingly meaningless work is for, but somewhere we imagine a market is being fed. 

Of course there often seems to be a contradiction between the radical/critical rhetoric of some of the contemporary art world and its actual economy of wealthy collectors, corporate sponsors and poorly paid gallery staff. This contradiction played out at the opening of the new gallery on 7th September  when the Goldsmiths Justice for Cleaners campaign protested against Goldsmiths continuing to outsource its cleaning to the private company ISS. The general demand that cleaners should enjoy similar employment terms to directly employed staff was given additional impetus over the summer with a restructure of shifts threatening a further deterioration in conditions for cleaners at Goldsmiths.

A banner asked 'Who Keeps the Cube White?'

 Following the protests,  Goldsmiths last week announced its intention to end the outsourcing of cleaning - a great victory though the campaign has warned that some cleaners face hardship and job losses between now and the end of the contract. They have set up a hardship fund, saying : 'Goldsmiths management have recently announced that they will be bringing cleaning staff in-house after a six month transition period. However under the current management of outsourcing company ISS, at least 20 workers have been unable to return to work for a month following a shift pattern restructure. This has left many with crippling financial losses. A number of these workers are now facing or have already faced dismissal'.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

'Folk Songs for Peace' at Lewisham Town Hall (1964) with Ewan McColl & Peggy Seeger

In February 1964, famous folk singers Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger performed at Lewisham Town Hall (Concert Hall) in Catford at a 'Folk Songs for Peace' benefit concert. I believe the couple were living in SE London at this time (and for many years later) at 35 Stanley Avenue, Beckenham BR3 2PU.

tickets from Janice Edmunds,  56 Vicars Hill, SE13 (Ladywell)

McColl and Seeger pictured at home in Beckenham, 1964 (source: Getty Images)

Proceeds from the event were for the London Committee of 100, the early 1960s non violent direct action body which organised sit down protests against nuclear weapons. It arguably peaked in December 1961 with simultaneous demonstrations at military bases including RAF Wethersfield in Essex where 850 of the 5000 demonstrators were arrested. Six organisers, the "Wethersfield Six", were charged with offences including conspiracy and incitement to breach the Official Secrets Act.  They were later jailed for 18 months. The same paper which reported the Folk Songs for Peace concert also reported on a Committee of 100 protest in January 1964 outside Wandsworth Prison, where one of the Wethersfield Six, Terry Chandler, was imprisoned.