AboutIniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) presents Social Fabric exhibition at Rivington Place, in which textiles are used to explore colonial history, international trade, labour and militant politics. In the 19th Century Karl Marx's account of the cotton industry tracked fifty years of boom and bust and the effects this had on workers in Britain and its colonies (and in particular India). Social Fabric cross references different accounts of textile history, focusing on works by two contemporary artists Sudhir Patwardhan and Alice Creischer, presented alongside extensive range of recent and historical archival material.
Alice Creischer's 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 globalisation. The craze for Indian Chintz caused protest amongst Spitalfields weavers in 1719 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 - âthe 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 âGirangaon' (mill village) the place where the cotton mills that transformed the city's economy and led to 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 and it was a hub for trade union activity and left politics. This painting depicts the area after the mills closed down in the early 80s, superimposing different urban strata - the defunct factories, new small scale enterprises and high rise luxury apartments, invoking the workers' struggle to keep the mills going and resist gentrification.
These two complex works are examined through an extensive display of archival loans and artist interventions, including Company Paintings, Indian Chintz, original journals from Marx, 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 artist Celine Condorelli to display the archival material.
There will also be an extended programme of talks and events running alongside, including a symposium on textiles; and workshops with activist and writer Meena Menon. 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 Londs Konsthall from 6 April until 27 May.