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28 Jan 2010

Symposium - On Display: Artists and Shops at Site Gallery, Sheffield

FrenchMottershead, Laura Fashion Boutique, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2009.
Courtesy FrenchMottershead and Urška Boljkovac.

Symposium - On Display: Artists and Shops
Site Gallery


Thursday 11 & Friday 12 February 2010
Contact or call:
0114 281 2077.


+ 44 (0) 114 281 2077

Site Gallery
1 Brown Street
S1 2BS Sheffield
United Kingdom

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To coincide with the current exhibition, FrenchMottershead - The SHOPS Project, Site Gallery is hosting a two-day event exploring the materiality of shops and shopping.

Day 1, Thurs 11 Feb : Workshop
1pm – 4pm
An exploration of selected texts through workshop activities, to generate discussion for Day 2.

Day 2, Fri 12 Feb : Symposium
10.30am – 5pm
£25 Organisations / £15 Individuals / £10 Students/Conc
A series of presentations, skype interviews and discussions. Chaired by artist Becky Shaw.

The symposium will examine a range of shopping experiences, seeking to capture changing relationships of visual spectacle, display, performance, taste and distinction, excess and restraint, exchange, community and morality.

Speakers include:

Sylvie Fleury, artist
Christine Hill
, artist
, artists
Jaspar Joseph-Lester
, artist
James Heartfield
, writer and lecturer
Peter Jackson
, Professor of Human Geography, University of Sheffield
Bill Brown
, Professor of English, University of Chicago
Nancy Cox
and Karin Dannehl, University of Wolverhampton

More information at


In 1965, Georges Perec wrote 'Things: a Story of the Sixties', a damning tale about a couple living to shop, to accumulate objects and a lifestyle to mark their social distinction. As the title conveys, in Sylvie and Jérôme's story lies a cautionary tale synonymous with the development of consumption in the 1960s.

'whitewashed walls were indispensable, dark brown carpeting a necessity, which could be replaced only by a mosaic of antiquated floor tiles of different kinds; exposed beams were obligatory, and little internal staircases, real fireplaces with a fire burning, rustic (or even better) Provençal furniture were highly recommended. These conversions, which were spreading across Paris and affecting, indiscriminately, bookshops, art galleries, haberdashers', novelty and furniture stores, and even grocer's shops (it was not uncommon to see a formerly down-at-heel corner-shop grocer turn into a Cheese Consultant complete with a blue apron giving him a very expert air, and his shop acquire roof-beams and straw decking...) such conversions, therefore, brought more or less legitimately in their wake a rise in prices such that the purchase of a raw-wool, hand-printed dress, or a cashmere twinset woven by a blind Orkney crofter (exclusive genuine vegetable-dyed hand-spun hand-woven) or of a sumptuous jerseywool and leather jacket (for weekend wear, for hunting, for driving) proved permanently impossible.'

Since the 1960s much has changed, but in this excerpt we find a surprisingly familiar concoction of minimalist aesthetics, taste, 'shabby-chic', conscience shopping, exoticism, and the significance of the small and selective, as opposed to the large and generic. This description, written in 1965, seems a logical precursor to ethical consumption, and shopping as a moral tool. To understand how these issues are embedded in our contemporary experience, the symposium will bring together artists whose practices explore different types of shopping, from fashion boutique, to mall, to supermarket, thriftshop and cornershop. These presentations will be paired with contributions from researchers in other fields, including geography, literature and history, as a means to draw out connections and new observations. Examining past experiences of shopping will be a key aid to examining the present.