Fighting Walls: Street Art in Egypt and Iran, a new exhibition at New Art Exchange in Nottingham, explores how the walls of public spaces in Tehran and Cairo have become sites for socially engaged graffiti artists entering into a dialogue with the authorities.
Ranging from scrawled political statements, to officially commissioned murals, to visually exciting street art; each intervention mirrors underlying currents within these unique societies.
An immersive installation of large-scale photography evokes the urban settings of Egypt and Iran – two countries where social uprisings have led for walls to serve as communally curated message boards.
The exhibition how graffiti is presented, not only as a form of social protest, but also as a voice and a creative language appropriated by a new generation of artists.
The exhibition represents over 100 artworks in the form of an immersive installation of large-scale photography, mimicking the street art’s original urban settings.
Whilst murals and urban art in the west has been well documented over the last decade, this exhibition celebrates the work of street artists working in contexts where political orders impinge democracy and freedom of speech, and where artists face repercussions, including prison sentences, for expressing their views on the walls of the city.
The Fighting Walls exhibition sits alongside ‘a rebel scene’ where artists Kajal Nisha Patel and Sunil Shah were commissioned to explore the motivations of Nottingham’s activist networks.
Titled A Rebel Scene, Patel and Shah’s work explores the visual identity of activism; often using low-cost materials, spreading ideas through modes of mass distribution and by appropriating mainstream values.
Artworks include a series of socially-engaged framed photo-collages created in collaboration with local womens’ groups.
This creative and accessible art form remixes the values of popular culture across glossy magazines, to question imposed norms related to issues such as consumerism, body image, race and identity.
Artist Sunil Shah describes their experiences of developing a rebel scene and working in the rebel city of Nottingham.
“We both come from outside of Nottingham and we found it to be an incredibly open and progressive city in terms social and political activism,” he says.
“There are numerous groups working very hard to create and maintain spaces for representation, education and public protest, to help promote positive social change.”
Fighting Walls is on show from 1 October – 18 December 2016. More information can be found here.