3 Aug 2017

‘This is a Freedom of Expression Centre’ opens at Hull School of Art & Design

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith’s Freedom of Expression is now here, exploring the degrees of freedom experienced by artists around the world.

Encompassing a whole host of work, including an exhibition featuring a new Bob & Roberta Smith artwork, This is a Freedom of Expression Centre will run at Hull School of Art and Design from Fri 4 Aug to Sun 3 Sep.

Alongside this, there will also be workshops, talks and a special performance by the artist’s Apathy Band on Sat 2 September.

Strikingly, Bob and Roberta Smith has installed a sign more than 12 metres long on the roof of Hull School of Art and Design (HS&D), proclaiming “This is a Freedom of Expression Centre”.

The sign heralds a month of activity exploring the nature of modern protest, the role that art and arts education have in reinforcing the democratic process and the freedom and restrictions that artists experience around the world. This is a joint project with Hull School of Art & Design and it forms a part of Hull 2017’s Look Up, a year-long programme of art made specifically for Hull’s public places and spaces, challenging people’s perceptions of Hull and offering different ways to experience the city.

Bob and Roberta Smith will also be in conversation with Blair Imani on Sun 3 September, during this year’s Freedom Festival.  Freedom Festival is Hull’s annual celebration of notions of Freedom, borne out of the celebration in 2007 of the bi-centenary of the anti-slavery act.

It’s a huge honour to show this new work. This is a Freedom of Expression Centre has been inspired by two key experiences of mine: firstly, the past five years as an advocate for the arts, exploring why democratic societies generally support and defend the arts, while repressive regimes curb them. The second experience was an interview I conducted with a Black Lives Matter activist, Blair Imani, while making a BBC 4 programme on protest.

Bob and Roberta Smith

I have painted a 14.40 metre long painting which is a transcription of two important passages of the interview. Reading is about trying to understand another’s experience. I hope the viewers of this work will read and walk the 14 metres and partake in a unique insight into contemporary protest.

“Art isn’t about opposing people or telling them what to think. I want people to reflect on what art can do, and what latent potential there is in all of us.

Fine Art students at HS&D will have work in the exhibition too, including work made after a provocation Bob & Roberta Smith presented to students earlier this year during a talk entitled ‘Subject to Events’. The work will include an installation piece and some process-based work, that suggests participation.

His work with students will also expand on the ideas explored in the talk with ‘Your Voice Needs You’, looking at how we map out the world and ideas about self through drawing, painting and sculpture. The project will conclude with a parade of the self – a reflection on how through art we can affect our environment and influence our lives.

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017, said: ‘Hull has a long history of championing human rights and freedom. At a time of change in the UK, Bob and Roberta Smith’s This is a Freedom of Expression Centre is a reminder of the important role that art and artists have in commenting on issues of the day and challenging the status quo and will be a thought-provoking part of our Freedom season.”

This is a Freedom of Expression Centre at Hull School of Art and Design runs from Fri 4 Aug to Sun 3 Sep.

The Apathy Band will perform live at the New Adelphi Club in Hull on Sat 2 Sep during the Freedom Festival.

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