Folk Archive

A couple of days ago I went to see an exhibition called Folk Archive at the Barbican.

That website includes lots of the exhibits but the pictures are annoyingly without all the contextual information that helps make sense of them.

It was an exhibition of contemporary British folk art, but that term was interpreted extremely broadly; the exhibition includes (some of these are photos rather than the actual object): trade union banners, graffiti, prison art, modified cars, costumes from traditional festivals, prostitute calling cards, sectarian murals, shop signs, painted false nails, football fanzines, protest placards, crop circles, sand castles, flower arrangements…

The sheer range of objects makes it hard to know what to say. Many of them were complete tat – unremarkable examples of mundane objects – but seeing them all together one did get a sense of a huge wealth of amateur, unofficial creativity. I enjoyed it and found it curiously cheering.

Some mad video of people running through the streets of Ottery St Mary carrying burning tar barrels on their shoulders to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. And the Burry Man of South Queensferry. And other oddities. It made the modified car rallies and the Mods and Rockers reunion look like part of a long tradition.

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