Alison Welsh - Bundle200 Years: Slavery Now

Bluecoat Display Centre Two, Hanover Street
20th October - 17th November 2007

Reviewed by Claudia Tanner

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain – but is it too soon to be be celebrating?

For most of us, the word slavery conjures up brutal images of chained Africans being shipped across the Atlantic – a part of the past not the present.

A caution against self-congratulation, this exhibition brings together ten artists whose work reflects concerns that slavery still exists today in various forms, both within the UK and internationally.

People like to believe that slavery is not possible today. Stephen Dixon’s classicised heads make reference to the ‘hidden truths’ behind the perceived moral superiority of western civilisation.

His ceramic plates depict a long history of exploitation through images of classical colonial slavery (sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations) and the modern-day sex trafficking trade – a reminder that people are still cruelly treated as commodities.

A collection of recycled textiles by Alison Welsh conveys the plight of today’s children exploited through forced labour. The child-sized shirts portray vulnerability through their distressed, burnt and stained appearance. The overlaying machine-embroided text delivers the harsh reality that ‘some lives are worth more than others’.

Paul Scott’s transfer-printed blue-and-white tea service represents the 2004 tragedy of the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay. It also highlights that the quintessential English cup of tea is inexorably linked to the slave trade, as Asian-European trade was instrumental in sustaining the exchange of human slaves.

Whilst not on the scale of Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum opened in August, this small display demonstrates a personal response to issues around forms of contemporary slavery.

It runs from 20 October through to 17 November in the temporary gallery at 54 Hanover Street, Liverpool. The curator, Stephen Dixon, is guest speaker at the Gardner-Medwin lecture on 15 November from 2.30-3.30pm. For further information contact 709 1555 or visit

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