Exhibitions as political ‘demonstrations’? Artists International Association’s For Liberty exhibition, London 1943

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During World War Two, while the British government used exhibitions as propaganda, anti-fascist Artists International Association (AIA) also recognised exhibitions’ potential as communication. Founded in London in 1933 the AIA had declared exhibitions - mounted on bombsites and billboards - a form of ‘demonstration’, a means through which to express solidarity and raise urgent issues. AIA’s For Liberty exhibition, held in 1943 on a London bombsite, was one such ‘demonstration’. Mounted by a group including German émigré designer FHK Henrion, recently returned from British internment, the exhibition - amplifying the four freedoms of the UN Charter - asserted the importance of maintaining culture in a democracy. In this paper I analyse how AIA used exhibitions as political vehicles as enacted through For Liberty, considering how it provided a space for artists and designers on the left, many of them refugees, to work for a common cause. I discuss the democratic ideals contingent on choice of site and analyse its content, which drew visitors in to a sense of the common with ‘ethical immediacy’ (Ranciere, 2012), its integration of graphics, text and image and AIA’s use of public space as site of ‘plural performativity’ (Butler, 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICDHS Conference Proceedings 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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