by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
The Crossover Project, presented by the avant-garde art gallery Bleur, co-founded by Aurelia Islimye and Roddy Clarke, brought together the worlds of art, design and fashion in an immersive exhibition. The exhibition at The Royal Exchange in London, England, strove to connect communities and creativity in an effort to build a circular economy. To achieve this, the exhibition had the emerging artists - Emmanuel Unaji, Nicole Chui, Jemima Sara, Joanna Layla, Eva Merendes, Oscar T Wilson, Sabrina Brouwers, Tyler Watson, Sophie Rawlingson amongst others - metamorphosise the leftover, surplus and waste materials from design brands, furniture designers, and international fashion houses into the bespoke works of art.
The Crossover Project was prompted by the disquieting statistics on excess production: 87 per cent of clothing ends in the landfill; 141 million tonnes of waste is produced by the packaging industry and eight million pieces of plastic reach the ocean every day. The two-week exhibition was a way to draw the attention of the public toward the dire situation that we are in. Keeping a close tab on the necessity to translate the waste into an art piece, the exhibition rightly led the visitors to interact with waste stations to create their own unique pieces. It was a way to immerse the visitors in a sensory experience.
The Crossover Project began when both the co-founders, Islimye and Clarke, felt passionate about the need for change in the art world and desired to have a wider conversation around sustainability in the industry. In an interview with STIR, Clarke talks about the ideation of The Crossover Project, "We saw an opportunity in bringing three creative sectors together to harness waste (art, design and fashion), and then enlisting a roster of exciting and emerging artists to help us rethink materiality through art as a force for change. Going beyond their normal practices, the artists transformed the waste we captured from design and fashion brands into statement works of art which portrayed strong narratives for change."
The fashion figurative artist Beth Fraser with the multimedia piece In The Drink delineated a fictional story around water when the sea levels had an exponential rise. The apocalyptic situation forced the humans to make the underwater their home. The shoes were exchanged with the fins and sunglasses were traded with the diving masks. When Fraser remapped the design of the home to suit the environment of underwater, she aimed to disturb the vision of a trained eye - a way to bring attention to the alternative world. As she opened an unfamiliar world for the viewers, Fraser led a visual guide to the repercussions the human tribe had to bear, if continued on this journey of excess.
More often than not, the toilet and bathroom do not take the centre stage when the discussions around waste management are held. Breaking this tradition is the installation Don't Flush It Down by the mixed media artist Jemima Sara. The everyday activity of flushing it down, if it could have consequences on the ecosystem is a question not directly addressed. When Sara brought a spotlight on the space of the toilet, quintessential to her practice, she also suggested gauging it as a site where issues around menstrual hygiene and inaccessible public toilets could be raised. Known for her drawings and paintings, Fraser raised curiosity amongst her viewers around the question of palpable actions around waste and its disposal.
Since the exhibition drew the spotlight on the importance of sustainability, Clarke mentions, “While each artwork was made using the waste we salvaged, each set was also created from leftover materials captured from different shoot campaigns and creative projects. Each set added to the inspiration and narrative behind each piece and the artists are looking to reuse some of the set materials in future pieces and showcases. Exhibitions have been notoriously wasteful so it was a chance for us to showcase that you can still create impactful displays with leftover and discarded materials.”
The two-day series of talks and workshops from industry experts took cognizance of the situation to bring about a change going forward. The artworks were also open for bidding through the platform of a silent auction hosted by The Auction Collective. The practice underscored the tangible, and commercial solution to the waste issues we regularly made to encounter. A sum from the profits made as part of the sale of the artworks was also donated to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The immersive experience around the artworks served as a crucial point of conversation with the audience. Emphasising the same, Clarke explains, “On the opening night we had a live art and dance performance, life drawing on one of the installations, waste stations for visitors to create their own works from and interactive touch points on a variety of the sets we created. Through this immersive approach, it allowed visitors to embed themselves into the narrative and witness the power of art and how it can positively provoke thought and emotion.” It is this thought of collaboration and dialogue developed in the community that the co-founders hope could bring about a change at a quicker pace.
The exhibition The Crossover Project was on view at The Royal Exchange, London until July 8, 2022.