Looking back on ‘Moving Patterns’

'Moving patterns', Royal Geographical Society 2009

The show at the Royal Geographical Soety in London is over. Itâ??s time to reflect on the experience. What has emerged?

While working on the project I tried to keep three questions in mind. Iâ??d amassed a magpie hoard of photos from my Indian journey in 2008 and my visits to my research sites (Green Street, Newham, and the South Asian Collection and archive at the V&A in 2008 and 2009). First, what kind of material had I gathered? â?? what did it utter?

What it seemed to yield was most obviously, its colour; then its plenitude and variety. The images were each vivid in themselves. Seen together, they seethed with narratives of place. From spending time with such a mass of images, came a realisation of the mobility of the ornament and how much it contributes to our sense of place. So the transient, shifting, cosmopolitan nature of Green Street became ever more apparent. People and their cultures migrate and traditions of ornament travel endlessly with them. On Green Street, a wide variety of ornament unselfconsciously coexists. And this made me think about what is implied in the word â??cosmopolitanâ??: what makes a city truly cosmopolitan is not just its variety of ethnicities but its giving space to multiple ways of seeing.

So,what kind of experience did I want viewers of the â??Moving Patternsâ?? exhibition to receive? On the answer to this question depended another: what structures might I use to allow the material to speak? In the end I made an installation which would offer opportunities to look and to receive in different ways; there were items which surrounded the viewer, items to look at or to look into.

'Moving Patterns', Royal Geographical Society 2009 'Moving Patterns' at the Royal Geographical Society. May 2009

'Moving Patterns' at the Royal Geographical Society, London, May 2009

The part of the installation which evoked the world of contemporary production and consumption (rafts of pallets bearing the fragile containers of consumption, ornamented carrier bags), was to lead the viewer to a â??mini museumâ??, a display itself concerning museum display, seeking to make visible the always – present connections between commerce and the activity of collecting. But above all, the exhibition had to enact the â??cosmopolitanâ??, and this meant that the work of the contributing artists was key. There had to be a space for different approaches, for various ways of seeing. I wanted the presence of different artists to decentre all the work, including my own. The carrier bags in these images are by artists Samar Abbas, Nilesh Mistry, Sumi Perera and Helen Scalway.

Although my final image is one which I drew myself, it seeks to evoke a sense of a decentred, shifting space with no one centre, but with many.

Seeing From Many Centres  Helen Scalway 2003

More images from the â??Moving Patternsâ?? exhibition will be uploaded to the â??Fashioning Diaspora Spaceâ?? site on the V&Aâ??s website later this year. Thank you for following this blog, and my special thanks to all those readers who have contributed some fascinating comments.

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