THE MIDDLESBROUGH Institute of Modern Art’s new ambitious exhibition, Localism, focuses on telling the story of Teesside’s cultural and creative history.
The project differs from anything mima has ever done before using user-generated narratives and crowd-sourced artwork to create the bulk of the exhibition.
Localism brings together a mix of artwork, artefacts, personal documents, resident artists and archival material in order to illustrate the history, politics, culture and creativity of Middlesbrough and its surrounding areas dating from 1800 to 2015.
It tells the story of the full range of creative activities that have been undertaken since Middlesbrough industrialised in the 19th century, expanding the notion of art to include film, design and engineering.
With four gallery rooms dedicated to the exhibition, visitors can follow Middlesbrough’s two century long timeline to see work from Linthorpe pottery, prints of the Evening Gazette through the years and can even watch Blade Runner, directed by Stockton-raised Ridley Scott.
Director of mima, Alistair Hudson said: “Localism is a story about what happens when the big ideas of art hit a very particular place like this, how a town built on making (things) uses art to grow and define itself.
“Middlesbrough has a unique and fascinating history of artists and makers and we don’t celebrate this enough.”
The exhibition plays out through four different chapters – ‘Local’, ‘Forum’, ‘Family Tree’ and ‘Workshop’.
‘Local’ and ‘Family Tree’ look at Teesside’s social and cultural context and focus on documenting Teesside’s artistic output.
‘Local’ records Teesside’s cultural and creative history from the 1800s when Middlesbrough started to develop and industrialise and then going almost full circle to the present with the recent announcement of SSI’s closure.
‘Family Tree’, on the other hand, becomes a showcase for Teesside’s creative talent, displaying original architectural plans for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, work from the 131-year-old Cleveland Sketching Club, as well as pieces from mima’s own art collection.
Senior curator Elinor Morgan, said: “mima has a reputation of bringing the best of international art to Middlesbrough, but this narrative tends to neglect local stories and people.
“We must remember that mima has grown from local artist groups and initiatives.”
The exhibition also plays host to two gallery spaces dedicated to starting new conversations and helping the exhibition expand even further.
“Workshop” is a place for the public to learn about two major creative industries in Teesside – Linthorpe Pottery and Boosbeck Industries – as well as tapestry weaving by 30 year textile veteran, Dot Seddon.
Members of the public can learn how to make furniture, loom weave and create pieces of pottery either to be taken home or to sell in mima’s shop.
‘Forum’ becomes a space for members of the public to share ideas, documents and memories, with a series of talks being held every Tuesday with the intention of developing Localism into a large-scale interactive project.
Senior curator, Miguel Amado, said: “Using these crowd-sourced contributions, we wanted to reaffirm the important role the town plays in the development of art and society’s articulation.
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better response from Middlesbrough’s residents. ”
Localism will remain at mima until February 2016.