To coincide with the exhibition FrenchMottershead – The SHOPS Project, Site Gallery is organised a symposium exploring the materiality of shops and shopping.
Invited speakers include
Sylvie Fleury, artist
Christine Hill, artist
Jaspar Joseph-Lester , artist
James Heartfield, writer and lecturer
Peter Jackson, Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield
Bill Brown, Professor of English, University of Chicago
Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl, University of Wolverhampton
The symposium examined a range of shopping experiences, seeking to capture changing relationships of visual spectacle, display, performance, taste and distinction, excess and restraint, exchange, community and morality.
Chaired by artist Becky Shaw.
Fri 12 February
10.30am – 5pm
A series of presentations, skype interviews and discussions
Advance bookings only. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0114 281 2077.
In 1965, Georges Perec wrote ‘Things: a Story of the Sixties’, a damning tale about a couple living to shop, to accumulate objects and a lifestyle to mark their social distinction. As the title conveys, in Sylvie and Jérôme’s story lies a cautionary tale synonymous with the development of consumption in the 1960s.
‘whitewashed walls were indispensable, dark brown carpeting a necessity, which could be replaced only by a mosaic of antiquated floor tiles of different kinds; exposed beams were obligatory, and little internal staircases, real fireplaces with a fire burning, rustic (or even better) Provençal furniture were highly recommended. These conversions, which were spreading across Paris and affecting, indiscriminately, bookshops, art galleries, haberdashers’, novelty and furniture stores, and even grocer’s shops (it was not uncommon to see a formerly down-at-heel corner-shop grocer turn into a Cheese Consultant complete with a blue apron giving him a very expert air, and his shop acquire roof-beams and straw decking…) such conversions, therefore, brought more or less legitimately in their wake a rise in prices such that the purchase of a raw-wool, hand-printed dress, or a cashmere twinset woven by a blind Orkney crofter (exclusive genuine vegetable-dyed hand-spun hand-woven) or of a sumptuous jerseywool and leather jacket (for weekend wear, for hunting, for driving) proved permanently impossible.’
Since the 1960s much has changed, but in this excerpt we find a surprisingly familiar concoction of minimalist aesthetics, taste, ‘shabby-chic’, conscience shopping, exoticism, and the significance of the small and selective, as opposed to the large and generic. This description, written in 1965, seems a logical precursor to ethical consumption, and shopping as a moral tool. To understand how these issues are embedded in our contemporary experience, the symposium will bring together five artists whose practices explore different types of shopping, from fashion boutique, to mall, to supermarket, thriftshop and cornershop. These presentations will be paired with contributions from researchers in other fields, including geography, literature and history, as a means to draw out connections and new observations. Examining past experiences of shopping will be a key aid to examining the present.