Undisclosed, a group exhibition about the 21st Century Crime of Modern Slavery in The Hostry gallery of Norwich Cathedral 2 March – 19th April 2022. Curators, Caroline Evans and Nicola Hockley commissioned myself and 5 other artists to make work for this campaigning show in association with charity Hope for Justice. I focused on various aspects – from representing the simplest definition of Modern Slavery – You can’t walk away, to trying to take responsibility for our involvement in exploitation of slave labour in the UK, inherent in our consumption and the modern supply chains that fuel it. Once you know you can’t un-know.
Slavery Salad was inspired by 16th Century Palissyware press moulded platters of leaves and invertebrates. My version presents a glossy feast of food that often makes it into our weekly supermarket shop, but has been produced in the UK using slave labour. It challenges the viewer to ask what is the human cost of the food we eat?
Returning to the Janus double-headed portrait, Every Little Helps is showing the bond between the bargain hunter and the modern slave in our current consumer economy. The work was made as a reaction to finding out that Modern Slavery has been discovered in the Cornish production of cheap supermarket daffodils – a product I have previously bought each spring on a weekly basis. I sculpted myself in the role of the Bargain Hunter, and was privileged to have a survivor of modern slavery sit for me to sculpt the reverse side portraying the slave. I worked to capture the desolation she described to me in her experience of being trapped, beaten and dehumanised by her slave master before she managed to escape. Portraying myself with the crazed look of someone who has spotted a bargain – like cheap daffodils, was part of my process of trying to take responsibility for my role in this market. Consumerism is an addiction we need to ween ourselves off. When you think about it – how can 10 stems of daffodils possibly be produced (bulbs purchased, planted, tended, watered, harvested by hand, packaged, distributed, and deliver a profit to shareholders) without someone getting screwed over?
The 77 Percent, did not make it into the Undisclosed exhibition. I made it as a Sumerian inspired clay tablet, a clay info-graphic, representing the 77 percent of polled UK corporations that believe that they have Modern Slavery in their supply chains. The 10×10 grid has been inscribed 77 times with the cuneiform word for female slave. It harks back to clay tablets that used to record how many slaves or bushels of wheat a land-owner might have – a tale as old as time, one we thought we had outgrown but sadly haven’t.