Two empty shops in Swindon’s Theatre Square have been converted into temporary art galleries until the end of January to host an interactive ‘Social Network Installation’ by recent Swindon College graduate Shanta.
This installation is a multi media collaboration of nearly 300 members from a global internet community who produced a virtual gallery of over 600 images based on their interpretation of Hope. Earlier this year, Shanta set up an internet group on Facebook called ‘Where is the Hope?’ as a social experiment with a virtual interactive community.
She invited anyone to join and upload images to an online collective gallery, the only criteria was that they must have some relevance to the ‘Condition of Humanity’ past, present or future. Within months the word spread and hundreds of photos, drawings and quotations had been posted. Members of the group also wrote poems, comments and songs to accompany the images.
Using this as inspiration Shanta designed a series of murals and Perspex screens and with the help of 30 local volunteers she built a forty foot multi media installation accompanied by a soundtrack of original songs based on ‘Hope and Despair’. The installation was first exhibited in June 2010 as part of the Swindon School of Art and Design graduation show at Kembery Park.
The organisers of Artsite’s Post Modern gallery were so impressed that they invited Shanta to exhibit her work at their gallery in November 2010. “In the context of the current recession it is such a relevant piece of work, it is very motivating and reminds us all that there is always hope, even when faced with adversity” says gallery curator Sally Taylor.
Putting up the installation has not been without its problems; the day before the exhibition opened there was a serious mishap and the entire installation crashed to the floor in a domino effect and several of the pieces were destroyed. True to the essence of the work Shanta did not give up hope and rebuilt it to incorporate the damage.
“I actually prefer it like this” she said. “It now reflects the fragility of Hope which does get crushed and often has to be retrieved from disaster and despair. Trying to achieve what you want in life is never easy and you need to have the hope that you can do it even when it seems like the odds are against you.” This attitude is echoed by one of the quotes in the display ‘When the world says give up HOPE whispers try it one more time’.
The response to Shanta’s installation ‘Where is the Hope?’ has been very encouraging. Whilst on display at the Post Modern Gallery it received over three hundred visitors most of whom found it to be inspirational and thought provoking. As part of a move to improve the look of Swindon, the council and Forward Swindon arranged for Shanta to use the window space of the two empty shops in Theatre Square to display her installation for a further two months.
The new layout has attracted a great deal of attention some of which has been controversial; one of the murals ‘Anti-Racism’ initially received complaints from the public about the racist nature of some of the images and the artist was forced to issue a statement explaining the content of the work. More recently a complaint was made to the police by a member of the BNP party concerning images that they considered derogatory to their party leader. In response the artist reiterates that it is not her intention to offend, rather to provoke thought and encourage discussion on both this and other issues associated with modern society in the hope that we can improve our communities and the environments they live in.
Photo right, Mahmuda Begum