Exercising Freedom

Encounters with Art, Artists and Communities

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    School groups at the Eva Hesse exhibition, May 4 – June 17 1979, Whitechapel Gallery. Whitechapel Gallery Archive.

Past Exhibition

This exhibition was on 6 Oct 2020 – 21 Mar 2021

Exercising Freedom: Encounters with Art, Artists and Communities

7 October 2020 – 21 March 2021

Walking through the doors of the Whitechapel Gallery in the late 1970s, visitors could find themselves exploring the wealth of arts from Bengal or immersed in the environments of American artist Eva Hesse. Facilitating these journeys was the Gallery’s pioneering Education Organiser. Jenni Lomax, who went on to direct the Camden Arts Centre, developed a new kind of education practice. For over a decade she engaged a host of young artists, including Zarina Bhimji, Sonia Boyce, Maria Chevska, Fran Cottell, Charlie Hooker, Janis Jefferies, Rob Kesseler, Veronica Ryan, Jo Stockham, among others, to act as creative mediators who illuminated the exhibitions programme while drawing East End communities into their own practice. Through their workshops, tours and onsite projects radical dialogues were established with people of all ages and backgrounds.

From establishing artist’s residencies in schools, to casting audience as participant, this artist led education programme emphasized the ‘work’ of art as being not only an object but also a collaborative process. Against the convulsive backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain, this exhibition explores a transformative moment in art education.

Exercising Freedom focuses on the Whitechapel Gallery’s community education programme from 1979 to 1989, exploring the role that art plays in society.

Podcast transcript available, please click here.