The Visionary Trading Project – which opened at the Guest Projects gallery on Friday 27 May – presents nine artists’ response to the gentrification of East London, and in particular the rapid and radical rejuvenation of London Fields and Broadway Market.

In the last decade Broadway Market has developed a brand new social, cultural and economic identity. As a new local demographic of young “creative types” grew, business and shops sprung up to cater for their tastes; this is exemplified by the re-launch and re-branding of the weekly market in 2004.

The prices attached to the vintage-this-and-that are not so charming…

Broadway Market provides a sense of ease and affluence, on Saturday the stalls sell unnecessary but charming consumables. The prices attached to the vintage-this-and-that and the organic-everything are not so charming – they are sky high and inaccessible to many people. Mostly those excluded are the local population, those who have been residents of the E8 postcode for years.  The new residents are cultural colonists and their lifestyles and incomes have changed the area. The Visionary Trading Project has engaged with the market, its customers and those who live in the area in order to explore the rhetoric of progression and change from a localised perspective.

Browsing is Free

The exhibition is physically and philosophically adjacent to Broadway Market and the works on display create a balance between commentary and involvement with the local community. Greta Alfaro’s intervention is a work that interacted directly with the market visitors and the market trade. Alfaro took over part of an apple stall and sold her own produce: apples painted black.  When painted, these apples became an obscure object, out of place and out of nature, so while they are a part of the market they are also alien from it.

Alfaro’s photographs of her apple stall and a number of other works in the VTP show the conclusion of a process – they are of course art objects in their own right, but they are also the embodiment of research and study of the area. The combination of these documentary works with more narrative pieces, such as Ilona Sagar’s video of the market, create a textured and multilingual exhibition.

VTP does not attack the yuppies that have made Broadway Market their homes, but…

To its credit VTP does not attack the yuppies that have made Broadway Market their homes, but it also doesn’t sympathise or collaborate with their effect on the area. The breadth of contributions means that the project avoids being didactic or evangelical. Laura Oldfield Ford’s deliberately grotesque drawings and fanzines are an overt anthropological critique, while Harry Meadow’s beautiful prototypes for manhole covers draw attention to the evolution of infrastructure and could apply to any city.

The Visionary Trading Project is successful at unpicking issues of commerce, class and urban transformation; it encourages thought and discussion and is well worth a visit and a conversation.

The Visionary Trading Project continues until 26 June, at The Guest Projects.

Admission is free.

Image courtesy of The Visionary Trading Project, Laura Oldfield Ford, Greta Alfaro and Harry Meadow


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