Live frogs, in an art gallery! Yes, Nottingham Contemporary has become home to five albino African clawed frogs. The frogs are unknowing participants of the ‘Uneven Geographies’ exhibition, which exposes the detrimental impact of globalisation on the world.
Éduardo Abaroa’s amphibious art is representative of the imperialist colonisation of language, where one dominant culture imposes itself on another. It takes a leap of imagination to envision the meaning behind this living, breeding and visual metaphor. But as the gallery assistant explained, African clawed frogs are typically dominant. Like the grey squirrel their presence can lead to the extinction of indigenous species. As viewers, we might perceive the frogs as symbolic agents of American imperialism, or European colonialism. However we shouldn’t forget the frogs are, in fact, African, leading to the uncomfortable notion of African slavery, still a contemporary issue. You only have to think of the film Blood Diamond, where Africans oppress other Africans.
Öyvind Fahlström continues the theme of global oppression, by placing it firmly on the map. A journey around ‘Garden – A World Model’, Fahlstrom’s fragmented 3D leaf map, reveals shock statistics such as: “the USA consumes 52% of the world’s food and has 17% of the world’s population”. Fahlström may use comic strip form, but these revelations are far from humorous. Pip, a member of environmentalist group, Transition Nottingham described the map as: “just jaw-dropping.” Fahlström’s intention is to distribute his work to as wide an audience as possible through the interactive form of magnetic political jigsaw puzzles.
Like Fahlström, Cildo Meireles’ art has undergone a wide circulation. Meireles adulterated every glass Coca Cola bottle he could get his hands on in the 1970s, stamping them with statements like ‘Yankees Go Home!’ Undetected by the Coca Cola factories, they were re-filled, and his anti-imperialist messages were distributed around Latin America, encouraging resistance.
The art in this exhibition inspires the viewer to look carefully at the dominant hegemony, encouraging the discussion necessary for change to begin within ourselves and our society. The message is: We have to be the change that we want to see in the world.
Uneven Geographies is accompanied by a series of free lectures and ends on Sunday 4 July 2010.