The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester is in the middle of displaying its “And Now We Are Plastic” exhibition. I spoke to Peter Nwabuokei- a young curator for the exhibition about the concept of this new project.
VIVA HOPE: Hi Peter, quite an exhibition you guys have going on here. What’s it all about?
PETER: The project is powered by the Paul Hamlyn foundation and circuit as a response to the 2011 riots where young people were seen to be somewhat disenfranchised and not as engaged with arts. The foundation has enabled the creation of Manchester’s “Whitworth Young Contemporaries” as well as powering nationwide projects aimed at getting young people engaged with art spaces.
VIVA HOPE: Why is this exhibition in particular important to the arts community?
PETER: For me, “And Now We Are Plastic” comes from the idea that we are very malleable as people now. Niche doesn’t necessarily mean unique anymore- in every aspect of life there are different niches and different styles.
The exhibition is actually reflective of the ideas that young people have of being in gallery spaces in general. By allowing them to display what they deem as ‘art’ breaks down the barriers and representation of young people being seen as disengaged in the arts. My aim was to build on the relationships that had already been formed between the Whitworth gallery and Moss side and Hulme.
VIVA HOPE: How has the relationship between young people and the arts society changed since you were a part of projects like this?
PETER: The interesting thing is that this exhibition is a response to the riots which were ultimately a response to the frustrations regarding government funding for projects such as these. The new things that we are now dealing are being displayed through the artwork that you see within the exhibition. Maybe the issues that young people were faced with when I was a young child weren’t as far-reaching as they are now, especially as a result of social media.
VIVA HOPE: What has the response been from the public?
PETER: It’s been really good actually, the exhibition has become a place where young people come to chill out, people will come to write application form or search the internet. I think changing the way that the space is used- like covering the windows and using big sculptures makes this part of the gallery, that looks out onto Moss Side, a lot more inviting.
The exhibition has been running since the 27th of January and will end on the 2nd of April.
Photographs courtesy of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Facebook and Twitter.