A global project investigating creative ways in which equality can be challenged has launched with an exhibition and conference at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The GlobalGRACE programme connects academics, NGO workers and practitioners from Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Together they are exchanging the ways in which art-based practices and multi-sensory research can be used to investigate the production of cultures of equality.
The 51 month UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund project will see six collaborative projects across three continents.
Two linked initiatives held at Goldsmiths helped launch GlobalGRACE.
An exhibition entitled Exchanging Cultures of Equality focused on the materiality of communication, featuring objects, images and reflections from project members. Using postcards and electronic networks, the exhibition explored the processes of exchanging "cultures of equality” transnationally across the six teams.
Nirmal Puwar, from the Department of Sociology, Co-Curated the exhibition with the project Post-Doctoral Fellow, Siobhan McGuirk. Puwar said: “For our first group exhibition, which is situated right at the start of working with each other, I thought about how we could start exchanging cultures of equality transnationally – with each of those words warranting a multi-lingual concept in itself. We are pitched in the middle of challenges of translation, in multiple senses.
“I wanted to encourage all the participants to think through what it means to make and receive a request and how this is mediated through the properties afforded by different materials. I also wanted to explore the long traditions of imperial cabinets of curiosity becoming museums. As well as current traditions of art biennials. None of which we, of course, want to replicate.”
Dr Puwar added: “There are already pre-existing frames and idioms through which the West has become accustomed to and developed a taste for places elsewhere. There is an aesthetic to consuming the Other, as Deborah Root put it, so many years ago.
“Our project of exchange does not enter a blank page. Quite the contrary. There is already a saturated and visceral index of global multicultural images which freeze and reify other cultures.
“Thus one of the challenges for the project, as it goes on to build exhibitions together is to consider how we, side step or intervene in these too familiar tropes and dichotomies.
“The mask from Brazil does this by being displayed back to front, not facing the audience looking into the cabinet. This reminds us of Mohini Chandra’s work titled Album Pacifica."
The conference saw attendees from the six teams, alongside key note conversationalists Professors Susan Friedman, Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Professor Srila Roy, discuss the possibilities and challenges of the project over the coming months and years.
At Goldsmiths, Drs Suzanne Clisby and Mark Johnson, Senior Research Fellow and Reader in Anthropology, lead a team which also includes Drs Nirmal Puwar and Yasmin Gunaratnam, Readers in Sociology.
They are joined by Dr James Turner, Project Manager and Senior Research Associate, Dr Siobhán McGuirk, Early Career Researcher and Jane Shepard, Project Administrator, working with more than 30 researchers, consultants and advisors across the consortium.
Co-directors Clisby and Johnson said: “The launch of the GlobalGRACE project follows a week of productive and critical conversations between partners at the first of a series of partnership and capability events that will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Manila and Cape Town over the following years.
“Together we addressed the necessity of imagining alternative futures and of finding new ways of living and working together more equitably, despite and because of, the persistence of systems of privilege and power that produce inequality and diminish people’s wellbeing internationally."