19 June 2023


Bold Tendencies’ 2023 program
explores what happens when
the situation becomes dire


by Kate Mothes

These days, we seem to be a constant state of widespread and deepening crisis. The news warns of the worsening effects of climate change, political and corporate corruption, democracy in peril, economic disaster, war, police brutality, debates about bodily autonomy, rights to privacy, and the rise of AI… “The language of emergency is sermonised by politicians and economists, our escalating woes broadcast by insightful yet insomniac media, doom scrolling through an infinite ledger of tragedy,” reads a statement from Bold Tendencies, introducing their summer 2023 program, Crisis. That about sums it up.

One method for dealing with information overload is to simply shut down, and another is to start unpacking. The latter is at the core of Bold Tendencies’ five new commissions from acclaimed international artists, each questioning, challenging, and elucidating the types of disconnects and distresses that arise when things don’t go according to plan, society grapples with change, and historical wrongs are put right. In the outdoor exhibition atop a repurposed parking garage in Peckham, this year’s program includes works by Emory Douglas, Kahlil Robert Irving, Sandra Poulson, Abbas Zahedi, an off-site work with Gray Wielebinski, and a new permanent piece by Jenny Holzer.

Kahlil Robert Irving, Memorial to Labor [{Through my wonder} My memory to your labor] LOST, 2023 (installation view)

Referencing contemporary issues with deep pasts, Douglas and Irving witness the centuries-long fight for rights for Black people, tracing troubling legacies of slavery throughout Europe and America and the ongoing struggle for equality. Emory’s two-paneled, corner-hugging painting Some American History (2023) portrays Black Americans and slogans of hope and resilience in the artist’s characteristically graphic, heavy-outlined style developed during his involvement with the The Black Panther newspaper between 1967-1980.

Irving’s Memorial to Labor [{Through my wonder} My memory to your labor] LOST (2023), composed of clay pipes coated in black enamel paint, are arranged according to coordinates on a map found at the The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, illustrating properties in the surrounding areas of Peckham, Camberwell, and Elephant & Castle with historical connections to enslavement.

Sandra Poulson, How much for the coal?, 2023 (installation view)

An immersive work by Sandra Poulson invites viewers to walk around towering stacks of bags representing the informal economy of coal in her home country of Angola, complemented by signs of human presence and labor: a collection of empty bottles sits off to the side, an umbrella blocks the sun, and buckets are filled with scorched wood. The artist uses materials that contradict her subject, like cast eco-resin and hand-sewn and screen-printed fabrics.

Zahedi has transformed a shipping container into a boutique display of gleaming cans of a take on the traditional Iranian drink sekanjabin, a kind of shrub, or vinegar-based drink. Connecting the artist’s life in London to his ancestral roots in Iran, he considers connections between family and support. He also examines the tenuous supply chains that support global commerce and how quickly they can be disrupted. One recent illustration of this was the blockage of the Suez Canal in March 2021, when a single ship that went aground and was stuck for nearly a week precipitated supply shortages and price rises around the world.

Bold Tendencies presents a range of performances and workshops throughout the summer alongside additional works from their permanent collection. Crisis is on view through September 16, and you can learn more on the organization’s website.

Jenny Holzer, Bold Sign, 2023 (installation view)
Bold Tendencies: Crisis, 2023 (installation view)
Sandra Poulson, How much for the coal?, 2023 (detail, installation view)
Rene Matić, no more quick, quick, slow, 2020 (installation view)
Jenny Holzer, Bold Sign, 2023 (installation view)
Abbas Zahedi, Best Before End, 2023 (installation view)
Abbas Zahedi, Best Before End, 2023 (installation view)

All images courtesy of the artists and Bold Tendencies. Photographs © Damian Griffiths

Header image: Emory Douglas, Some American History, 2023 (installation view)

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