The first in a new series of works triggered by the uprisings of the early 2010s, including the Arab Spring and riots across global locations including London and the artist’s home town of Vancouver, these photographs focus on two scenes associated with events in London in August 2011: Mare Street in Hackney Central, and Hackney Downs, where events were focused around the Pembury Estate.
Occasions of flux, transformation and disorder, and the possibility of change they bring about, have long fascinated the Canadian artist Stan Douglas. New photographic works on display at Victoria Miro Mayfair focus on two locations of the 2011 London riots: Mare Street in Hackney Central and the Pembury Estate in Hackney Downs. To create the panoramic mise-en-scènes on display, Douglas conducted intensive research, mining sources including contemporary aerial news reports and still images. He then meticulously combined his own aerial photography with media footage to reconstruct moments frozen at specific points in the unfolding disturbance. He discusses his decision to focus on events in east London and how the work carries echoes of uprisings in 1848.
What compelled you to make work around events in 2011?
‘2011 was the year of riots around the world. The Arab Spring was ongoing, you had Occupy Wall Street, you had the events in London, and you even had riots in Vancouver, with people coming in from the suburbs, coming downtown with crowbars intending to wreak some havoc after the game of the Stanley Cup hockey championship. I call this our 1848. In 1848 there were mini revolutions throughout continental Europe. This happened globally in 2011, with people in various ways expressing their frustration with a lack of representation. But instead of it being treated as a political event, it was treated as a policing event like the 2003 anti-Gulf War demonstrations.’
That’s the real conflict: between two groups who want to claim the ownership of space.