Spotting a passer-by on the High Street wearing a blue badge reading ‘I did nothing’ I wanted to track down where it came from. My search took me to Modern Art Oxford, presenting Future Knowledge which builds daily as visitors leave data during their time in the space. There are many ways to contribute to this show that asks what kind of city you want in the future?
Reference books and models provide explanations as to why we are facing issues such as global warming and lack of community now and arguably in the future. The questions raised throughout the exhibition come together in Rachel Barbaresi’s ‘urbansurburban, searching for St Ebbe’s in the suburbs’. Photographs of the pulled down Westgate Car Park are displayed next to images of the houses that were removed in the 1960’s to make way for this progress. The old community splintered as families were rehoused in the suburbia of the ring road. Images of a regular farmers market in the city shows what is lost. This exhibition is visibly an opportunity for scattered friends to reconnect through public events held in the gallery space.
A reminiscence book is present in the small gallery space, where pages of Kelly’s directory from 1952 to present day are displayed to show how the number of residents in the streets of St Ebbe’s declined with time (‘Memorial to St Ebbe’s). The book of photographs collected from the stages of the demolition of this once notorious area of the city tells the human story of separation.
The present day experience of visitors is collected in a collage on the long wall of the large gallery space. This is made up of images and words torn from newspapers, all selected by the public who pass through this space. ‘Mass Media’ is an invitation to add to this and is part of Gustav Metzger’s central sculpture, which comprises of piles of newspapers all taken from one moment in time. The results of the collage on the wall are witty, moving and overwhelmingly political.
A ballot box in the exhibition lets visitors express their own personal truth with answers to searching questions being incorporated into songs performed by the Young Knives during a residency.
Visitors can leave their own mark on the exhibition physically on a chalkboard or sketching on paper provided. Tables are created to sit and work on a composition.
Mounted on a wall is Lucy Kimbell’s ‘Physical Bar Charts’. These are large plastic tubes full of badges inscribed with different answers to the question ‘People of Oxford, what did you do last week for a sustainable future?’
This exhibition is an opportunity to respond to this question without judgement. Which is just as well as the blue badge, as spotted on the High Street, answers the above question with ‘I did nothing’ and is proving the most popular.