Danson House – an amazing setting for ‘Couriers of Taste’ curated by Day + Gluckman.

Danson House

Danson House

‘Couriers of Taste’ explores trade routes, global consumerism and cross-cultural influences. Danson House was built for leisure and decadence but that lifestyle was supported by a dark history in colonial exploitation.

The works shown are by artists who are interested in how the history of trade and cultural appropriation influences our understanding of the world today.

The fascination with the East dates back to the days of the China export trade and Silk Road. Even at the height of chinoiserie, as the Western market was being flooded with Chinese products the Chinese people themselves were unwelcome aliens and were targeted overseas by racist laws.

Karen Tam’s work looks at the infiltration of chinoiserie, and the continuing, conflicted relationships between “East” and “West”.

Karen Tam's recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam’s recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam believes the fear of China’s rising status as a superpower, its economic strength, position as the world’s manufacturer, and host of the 2008 Olympics is causing a current recurrence of racist attitudes towards Chinese people today.

Karen Tam's recreation of an opium den

Karen Tam’s recreation of an opium den

I think she is right that there is a lot of uncertainty around and this can fuel fears that might result in negative attitudes. The balance of economic power has shifted entirely since the term Oriental was first coined but China remains a mystery to most westerners. The fears we have are a lot to do with the messages we receive about life in China and its political system such as the treatment of Ai Wei Wei.

Vivien Qu

Vivien Qu

The film Trap Street an independent film directed by Vivien Qu showing at the London Film Festival about the authorities detaining and torturing innocent/naive people who’s lives can be suddenly destroyed with no recourse, not that this doesn’t happen in every other country up to a point, but Qu says these detentions in China are on the increase and the possibility to make independent films about such matters is declining. The reasons for this seem to be economic to some degree as Qu explained that investors now have the opportunity to make big money in commercial films so there is less for the small independent companies. As to the increase in detentions could this be down to more technology, more surveillance, more paranoia.

Trap Street

Trap Street

Meekyoung Shin copies Chinese porcelain vases. She transplants a foreign cultural tradition not only geographically from east to west but also in terms of media (from marble or porcelain to soap).

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Shin’s use of soap, a transient and unstable material, questions the authority and originality that the original vases demand. Presenting the vases on the packing crates in which they are shipped from location to location, further emphasizes the sense of dislocation and transformation.

Like most 18th century houses Danson House would have housed ceramics and possibly wall papers from China, and would almost certainly have housed furniture and collectible items which borrowed chinoiserie elements.

Meekyoung Shin Translation

Meekyoung Shin Translation

In the 18th century new goods from around the world were influencing consumption, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, spices, cottons and silks, changing the habits and fashions of society.

Stephanie Douet is interested in chinoiserie as the birth of leisure in Europe.

Stephanie Douet

Stephanie Douet

The fractured, fictional, idyllic life of the aristocracy in Europe imitating China is explored in Douet’s sculptures. She sees a similar distance in Europe’s understanding of the country today and a continuation of trade and misunderstanding from that of the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

Rapid growth in contemporary hi-tech consumerism and global manufacture is epitomised by Susan Stockwell’s installation of computer cables tumbling down through an antique Western fireplace.

Susan Stockwell

Susan Stockwell ‘Firewire’

Our reliance on technology and the huge impact that online shopping has had on production and global trade creeps into the imaginary trader’s bedroom at Danson House and begins to encroach on every aspect of his world.

The spectacle of Laura White’s ‘Esque Collection’ of sculptures pulls together ideas of hybridity, the pagoda dotted landscape, porcelain ware, shop display stands and the seduction of opulence.

Laura White

Laura White

These look magnificent highly prized items but close up it is apparent they are constructed from the back self of a charity shop and held together with plasticine.

Laura White

Laura White

They are confections.

Laura White

Laura White

Little towers to consumerism.

Laura White

Laura White

I found them joyful. They have a happy Frankenstein quality.

Laura White

Laura White

A tangle of origins melded together to create something new.

Ray Richardson is an artist whose roots in East London are very important to him. His work features his local landscape, his friends and family and a lot of dogs.

Ray Richardson

Ray Richardson

English bull terrier dogs who he sees as representing himself.

Ray Richardson Irish Frank

Ray Richardson Irish Frank

At his talk at Ochre Print Studio he told us about the local characters in his life and how his love of soul music and football influences his work.

It was hard to imagine him teaching at a public school but he spent a year in residency at Eton College.

He had a very philosophical attitude to his experience and as he said he was paid.

As he was to do this commission.

Ray Richardson

Ray Richardson

A another clash of cultures.

I have just started reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton.

Came across this wonderful quote in it from Oscar Wilde –

‘a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail’.

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