NOM, like its title suggests, is about taste. Your taste for food, your taste for culture, your taste for your environment. The third exhibition by The Laundry, an arts curation and collaboration programme by and for women and BAME creatives, NOM is an exploration of food; food attitudes and the social and environmental by-products of our relationship with food – through the lens of contemporary diasporic experiences.
An investigation into the way in which we engage with food as individuals and as communities – we are forced to question how much of our taste is imposed on us - filtered by external factors, external pressures, external viewpoints. Is our food really our own, is our dish really a home comfort? The artists within the multidisciplinary show look beyond the ingested product to the roots, the background and the choices we make with food in the everyday.
The brainchild of Multidisciplinary Artist Georgina Johnson, The Laundry has spent its last year active, tirelessly working to raise the visibility of creative’s from Black, South Asian and MENA backgrounds. At just 25 years old, Johnson has forged a counter-cultural community of voices; artists from groups under-represented in the arts industry both in the UK and abroad, now have a platform to share their multi-disciplinary works void of an ‘othering’ gaze. For Johnson, who created the platform as a “sister movement” to her clothing brand, Laundry Service, the platform is “all about creating a network of kin.”
Alike to The Laundry’s successful unpacking of terminology and histories in its second exhibition, CUNT, NOM approaches the multi-faceted conversation that food partakes in amidst the construction of identities and cultures. As with both CUNT, and The Laundry’s debut show, Memories, NOM focuses on the personal understanding of each of its contributing curators and artists – the unique and nuanced relationship that they bear with food. In turn, the exhibition will act as the foundation for an interactive sensory experience; showcasing sculptural installation, video, immersive soundscapes and more. We, as the audience, are encouraged to not only partake in and consider the works, but attempt to understand how the complications and celebrations of food coincide and differ from our own lived experiences.
Featuring works from both local and global distinguished creatives who have previously exhibited at the ICA, V&A, and Saatchi Gallery, Guest Curator Loren Elhili – UK, Guest Curator + Artist Sabrina Mumtaz Hasan – UK, Food Designer Giulia Soldati – Italy, Multidisciplinary Artists; Ilana Harris-Babou- NY, and Moza Almatrooshi – UAE and Material Designer Renuka Ramanujam – Singapore, NOM’s line-up of creatives certainly reinforces The Laundry’s manifesto of ‘Creating a space in which contemporary voices exchange new ideas.’ These voices are not limited to Johnson’s own creative hub in London but expand over across the pond – as we saw last August with Laundry Arts immersive first show, Memories, which featured ten creatives including Artist, Curator and Writer, Devin N Morris (NY/Baltimore), Dj/Sound Artist Martha Caiden and Abondance Matanda – Poet (both UK), Photographer Cary Fagan (Texas).
We spoke to both The Laundry’s founder Georgina Johnson and Guest Curator Loren Elhili to hear more about the establishment of this worldwide network and just why NOM is so personal to them.
So, first of all how has The Laundry’s journey been since its creation?
Georgina Johnson: Well, the Laundry was created in 2017. As you know, we debuted with our first exhibition Memories in August last year at Protein Studios. It was the first time I really saw what could happen when a group that hadn’t all met, and were based in different places in the world could band together, share and create collectively. For me it’s important not to centralise on the west or on London that’s why I purposely choose to work with people from different places in the world. We can get really focused on what’s coming out of London like it’s the centre of the world when there is so much incredible talent in other places. We’ve been able to work with semi-established artists and some completely fresh faces, which is great and equally important in levelling the field in terms of accessing the arts. There’s a great and important exchange that goes on when you bring different disciplines and cultures together. Which was evident in Memories, CUNT that followed and now NOM, it’s the ability of the platform to include so many diverse voices in one place through one vehicle.
The global scope of each of the previous shows has definitely resonated in NOM’s curation. It’s wicked that The Laundry’s only been active for a year and achieved this much already…
Georgina Johnson: We’ve had a really short her story but yes, we’ve been able to achieve tons. I’m definitely excited for our growth. Next year we’ll be focusing on the campaign we launched last month at the Ace+Tate Store ‘Slow Fashion to Save Minds’ and a series on Self and Small Publishing. So watch this space!
And, so what does this current exhibition mean to you Loren, as a Guest Curator to the project?
Loren Elhili: To me, NOM means a space to present ideas and host conversations about a very accessible concept (food) and the opportunity to collaboratively expand on that concept to produce a new dialogue that moves beyond foods everyday usage as physical sustenance. It’s been really important for me that we’ve been able to flesh out a dialogue about food that is deeply socio-political; to look at food as lens into culture, belonging and collectivity, and into history in relation to geography, dividing territories and our environment.
Why did you choose to host NOM?
Loren Elhili: I wanted to guest curate NOM because of The Laundry Arts being such a young platform for underrepresented femme and poc voices and because of a strong belief in the infrastructure The Laundry is creating for itself outside of our mainstay institutions. Taking part in the residency programme for me was twofold - to build alliances, support and collaborate with remarkable minds from diverse disciplines and the opportunity to curate a show to a theme that is profoundly personal to me. Growing up in a multi-racial home and in London, amongst a multitude of cultures, I’ve always seen food as a gateway into the knowledge and intricacies of global geography and diaspora and the complexities of identity. Having the chance to mediate this through expanded notions of food and with voices expressing their own nuances on this, to me was such a necessary coming together. I feel like food and hospitality presently, in our current political climate are an effective and potentially radical subject that can answer back to individualism and encourage a togetherness that opposes alienation.
This togetherness and collectivity is the foundation of The Laundry, and the core of what it hopes to implement within other collectives and organisations. For The Laundry, community is vital, and work is best produced as a whole – each fragment of identity taken into account and utilised – The Laundry has no boundary of culture or border, the programming will remain beautifully paradoxical, as universal and unlimited, as it is individual and intimate.
Alongside the exhibition, the contributors of NOM have released an exhibition book documenting their explorations of food. The wider exhibition programme also invites other voices in the arts sphere and beyond, to join and broaden this discussion.
NOM is showing at AMP GALLERY,20 October – 4 November (1 Acorn Parade, London, SE15 2TZ), Wednesday - Sunday 12-6pm
words HELENE KLEIH
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