The touring exhibition ‘Show Me The Money: The image of finance 1700 to the present’, which features several of my works, is now exhibiting at the People’s History Museum in Manchester until 24 January 2016.

More details here: http://www.phm.org.uk/whatson/show-me-the-money-the-image-of-finance-1700-to-the-present/

I will be exhibiting a selection of work from Let This Be A Sign, including the Credit Crunch Lexicon, in this group show opening at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art in June 2014.

Show Me The Money: The Image of Finance, 1700 to present asks what does ‘the market’ look like? What does money really stand for? How can the abstractions of high finance be made visible? The exhibition charts how the financial world has been imagined in art, illustration, photography and other visual media over the last three centuries in Britain and the United States. The project asks how artists have grappled with the increasingly intangible and self-referential nature of money and finance, from the South Sea Bubble of the eighteenth century to the global financial crisis of 2008. It features works ranging from satirical eighteenth-century prints by William Hogarth and James Gillray to newly commissioned works by artists Goldin+Senneby, Cornford & Cross, Immo Klink, Simon Roberts, and James O Jenkins, as well as the first UK exhibition of international artists such as Molly Crabapple. The exhibition includes an array of media: paintings, prints, photographs, videos, artefacts, and instruments of financial exchange both ‘real’ and imagined. Indeed the exhibition also charts the development of an array of financial visualisations, including stock tickers and charts, newspaper illustrations, bank adverts, and electronic trading systems.

StockBrokers004

Photograph: Brokers with hands on their faces, 2007 –  2011 (Digital collage) © Simon Roberts

Show Me The Money demonstrates that the visual culture of finance has not merely reflected prevailing attitudes to money and banking, but has been crucial in forging – and at times critiquing – the very idea of ‘the market’. The exhibition tours three distinct regions of the country, beginning at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, close to the HQ of Northern Rock, where in an English context the financial crisis of 2008 began. It is then shown across two sites simultaneously: John Hansard Gallery, part of Southampton University, and Chawton House Library in Hampshire, which was owned by Jane Austen’s brother, himself implicated in a financial scandal of the 1810s. In 2015 the show continues to the People’s History Museum in Manchester, a national museum that houses material history from the union and co-operative movements.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 164pp book, published by Manchester University Press and edited by Peter Knight, Nicky Marsh and Paul Crosthwaite. The publication provides a wider set of contexts – professional, intellectual, political, literary and artistic – that inform the exhibition. The authors examine the history and politics of representations of finance through five essays by academic experts and curators alongside five commissioned contributions by notable public commentators on finance and art. The writers include Andy Haldane, the Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, who asks us “What do you think about when you think about a ‘market’?”

Hogarth-SMTM

Initiated with Dr Peter Knight, Manchester University, Professor Nicky Marsh, Southampton University, Dr Paul Crosthwaite, Edinburgh University, and Dr Isabella Streffen, Manchester University with NGCA.

The website for the exhibition is now live. Find out more about the themes and content of the show by following…http://www.imageoffinance.com/

 

TOUR DATES

Chawton House Library in Hampshire, Friday 19th September until Saturday 22nd November 2014

John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, from Tuesday 7th October until Saturday 22nd November 2014

People’s History Museum in Manchester, from Saturday 11th July 2015 until Saturday 28th February 2016

 

Good to know that Lucy, today’s Page 3 girl in The Sun newspaper, is so concerned about uncollected council taxes.

Read the full story here.

My Star Chambers series is featured in the current issue of Vignette Magazine. You can see the whole issue online here.

 

Here is the article by Sam Nobes, which accompanies the piece:

The origins of the term “Star Chamber” can be traced to King Edward II and referred to a room built specifically

for the meetings of the King’s Council. Over the next 600 years the term was revived on many occasions. Most recently, Star Chambers was coined to describe the special governmental and council meetings held across the UK to discuss budget cuts following the 2010 election of the coalition government.

Since 2007, Brighton based photographer Simon Roberts has been studying the British landscape in its many forms. From photographing the English at leisure in We English, to examining the social and political environments of the current ‘era of austerity’, Roberts’ work has explored various themes incorporating England’s cultural, social and political identity.

In 2010, Roberts was commissioned to be the official British Election Artist, a role which saw him traversing the country, again looking at the British landscape, but this time through the ‘prism of politics’. A prominent objective of his more recent work has been responding to the shifts in the economic climate in which we find ourselves, and commenting on the Coalition’s move to reduce the nation’s budget deficit through harsh Public Sector cuts.

Star Chambers is part of this overall commentary and sees Roberts taking to the public gallery inside eight of the council meetings in which the local budgets for 2011 were being set. The significance of the impending cuts was tremendous; in Birmingham alone, the budget was reduced by 212m from the previous year, seeing nearly 2,500 full time posts slashed along with reductions in children’s services and the Adults and Communities budget.

The severe cuts implemented by the government have no doubt had a serious effect on the nation as a whole, but it is nevertheless the specific council decisions within these meetings which have determined how each region has been affected, and subsequently how each individual will be affected.

The photographs themselves are all taken from the public gallery inside the Star Chambers. Roberts has used this raised perspective to his advantage. As in many of his photographs, he incorporates a landscape methodology aimed towards a human subject, whereby he invites the viewer to witness the overall context of his subjects. Roberts is not only interested in the space in which these meetings were taking place, nor just the people involved; he applies a landscape approach to the interiors so that the viewer can get a comprehensive vision of the drama that is unfolding, at the very time the defining decisions are being made.

Due to the lighting limitations, fairly long exposures were needed to capture the scenes within the buildings. This has brought a lot of movement to the images, which not only creates a clear visual juxtaposition between the interiors and the people occupying them, but further emphasises the increasing drama within.

As a whole, Simon Roberts’ series Star Chambers provides an objective view of the 2011 cuts taking place, converting his audience into captive witnesses of what is set to be one of the defining moments of the current era of austerity.

 

HMV and the death of the British high street: why do we care? by Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, Tuesday 15 January

Austerity and online shopping have bought about one of the few booms of recent years: a growth in nostalgia for defunct stores. But why does it matter to us when shops close their doors for good? Read here.

You can also read an article by Dan Thompson of the Empty Shops Network entitled “The high street isn’t dead” here.

I am exhibiting a new body of work as part of the London Festival of Photography running throughout June. Let This Be A Sign is on show at the Swiss Cottage Gallery and explores the economic, political and social effects of the recent UK recession.

Here are some installation shots-

Alongside the exhibition, a participatory space has been set up where visitors are invited to share their thoughts and experiences. Why not get involved?

If you would like the opportunity to share your experiences of the recession and its effects, you can leave a message on the Public Wall in the gallery, or via twitter using the hashtag #LetThisBeASign.

Here is the exhibition text:

One of the ways we remember an economic crisis is through its images. When we recall Depression-era America, we think of the black-and-white portraits of men in bread lines wearing placards that beg for work. Recalling Thatcher’s Britain, we see news pictures of the miners’ strike or stolen moments from the inside of dole offices. While barely a day goes by without more grim economic news, the current recession has been largely invisible, perhaps due to the challenges of representing abstract monetary systems or because the outward signs of today’s economic struggles are hard to capture without resorting to cliché, even though the eventual effects – a lost job, a vanishing pension, cut backs to social services – are intensely personal and painful.

Over the past eighteen months Simon Roberts, who was commissioned as the official Election Artist by the House of Commons in 2010, has attempted to cut through the statistics and abstractions to explore different ways of representing the effects of these changes on the landscape. In this new series of work he follows in the humanist tradition – employed by some of the most influential British documentary photographers of the last century – whilst incorporating the signs, iconography and language that have become so much a part of this ‘era of austerity’.

His approach is multi-disciplinary, using video, text and objects such as protest banners, as well as digital collages, in an attempt to record our new predicament. The Credit Crunch Lexicon, for example, is a text-based work, which draws upon the diversity of economic, political and philosophical terminology that has now become part of our vernacular.  Arranged alphabetically to create a form of concrete poetry, the words and phrases scrutinize the miasma of rhetoric, hyperbole and, sometimes contradictory terms used to describe the credit crunch. In other pieces Roberts captures the more visible manifestations of economic change, from the omnipresent sales signs in shop windows and shuttered high street stores to the increase in union strikes, student sit-ins and the manifestation of the Occupy encampments which focused its protest against corporate greed.  There are photographs, too, taken inside city halls around the country, where the 2011/12 annual budgets were agreed and major cuts signed off.

This exhibition aims to convey a multitude of voices and provide an incisive depiction of contemporary British reality. Our means of organising protests and campaigns may have become more technologically sophisticated, but our means of self-expression: camps, banners, graffiti remains straightforward, rooted as they are in our personal experience, our sense of justice, our vulnerability and our expectations of those in positions of power.

As is common in his practice, Roberts has added a collaborative element to this exhibition encouraging public participation.

As the new financial year progresses with continued chaos in the Eurozone and recovery slower than predicted, there is no guarantee that the fiscal landscape will improve. In this sense, Roberts’ work is unresolved. The installation is ongoing, mutable and subject to all of our fears and desires.

A colour newspaper, conceived and published by Roberts, will be available during the exhibition.

My new series of work ‘Let this be a sign’ is published in today’s FT Weekend Magazine. It incorporates the signs, iconography and language that have become part of Britain’s era of austerity.

One of the ways we remember an economic crisis is through its images. When we think of the Great Depression in America we think of black-and-white ­portraits of men in bread lines wearing placards that beg for work. When we remember Thatcher’s Britain we see news pictures of the miners’ strike or stolen moments from the inside of dole offices. While barely a day goes by without more grim economic news, the current recession has been less visually memorable, perhaps because the outward signs of today’s economic pain are hard to capture without resorting to cliché, even though the eventual effects of such news – a lost job, a vanishing pension, cutbacks to social services – are intensely personal and painful.
Roberts’ credit crunch lexicon, overlaid with a graph showing falling consumer confidence, 2007-2010

 

Over the past 12 months I’ve been looking at different ways of representing these effects. I started with the series “Star Chambers”, published in the FT Weekend Magazine in April 2011. These were photographs taken inside city halls around the country, where annual budgets were agreed and major cuts signed off. But as the situation has moved on, I have employed video, text, objects such as protest banners, as well as photographs, in an attempt to record our new predicament and its shifting economic and political geography.

The crisis has moved terminology and jargon from the business pages on to the front pages of our newspapers, radios and TV sets; these words have become part of our everyday language. Arranged alphabetically, they highlight the fog of rhetoric, hyperbole and exotic, sometimes contradictory terms used by politicians, economists, protesters and journalists to describe the effects of the credit crunch. I collated the text from political speeches, papers from the governor of the Bank of England, newspaper headlines, protest poster slogans and economic reports, all of which reference the economic situation from 2007 to 2012. Against this lexicon I traced the downward graph of ­consumer confidence during the same period.

The UK high street has been one of the major casualties of the credit crunch, with a recorded dive in consumer spending leaving a wake of failed shops and brands. Sale signs are now omnipresent in shop windows, desperate to entice us with bright colours, shouty promises and seemingly massive price reductions. But while some shopfronts are shuttered for good, discount stores are enjoying a booming trade – known as “the Aldi Effect”.

 

A photo-montage of the omnipresent “Sale” signs
A photo-montage of the omnipresent “Sale” signs now seen in shop windows across Britain

The increase in demonstrations, student sit-ins and union strikes has seen a plethora of home-made, low-tech protest signs – ironic given the ways movements such as UK Uncut use social media to rally their followers. Compared to the angry slogans of the 1970s, the tone of these placards is quite gentle, with an underlying element of humour.

The Occupy London movement almost became an art installation in itself. Between mid-October and late February, the encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral focused the protest against corporate greed and briefly became part of the local landscape. The montage opposite uses some of the hand-crafted notes, messages and signs posted up around the cathedral and Paternoster Square before the camp was closed down at the end of February.

What isn’t clear is how much difference the protests will make. As

the new financial year unfolds, and recovery is even slower than predicted, there is no guarantee that the fiscal landscape will improve. In this sense, my work is unresolved. The installation is ongoing, mutable and subject to all of our fears and desires.

A photo-montage of the notices and messages posted by the Occupy London protesters
A photo-montage of the notices and messages posted by the Occupy London protesters around St Paul’s, between October 2011 and February 2012; “the [Occupy] movement almost became an art installation in itself.”
“Let This Be a Sign”, works by Simon Roberts, will be exhibited at the Swiss Cottage Gallery as part of the London Festival of Photography from May 23 to June 30; dev.macambulance.co.uk/simonroberts.