May 17, 2015 - Whitechapel Gallery - Archive displays 2015–16
May 17, 2015

Archive displays 2015–16

Balinese Gamelan Gong Kebyar Concert & Traditional Dances — Open-Air Theatre, 1969. Courtesy of Malie Letrange.

Archive displays
April 2015–March 2016 

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX

A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis 
21 April–4 October 2015 
Gallery 4
Free entry 

The Whitechapel Gallery presents a new archive display documenting the history of the Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis, a groundbreaking international arts festival held around Shiraz, Iran, every summer from 1967 to 1977. It features rarely seen photographs, posters, publications, audio and video documenting significant cultural and historical moments in the Festival’s history.

The ancient ruins of Persepolis were one of the spectacular backdrops for the open-air festival of traditional and avant-garde music, theatre and performance. The programme featured artists from both East and West, including the Beatles’ muse, sitar player Ravi Shankar; American composer John Cage; prolific Polish artists and theatre directors such as Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowski; as well as Rwandan drummers and Balinese Gamelan musicians and dancers.

Highlights of this display include atmospheric black and white photographs of a performance of Orghast, a play by poet Ted Hughes and Mahin Tajadod, co-directed by Peter Brook, Arby Ovanessian, Geoffrey Reeves and Andrei Serban in the ancient ruins, shown alongside images of American choreographer Merce Cunningham’s dancers performing against the bas-reliefs of Persepolis. 

The festival came to an end with the Iranian revolution and the fall of the Shah, but its legacy remains. It is brought to life through this display of archive material seen for the first time in the UK.

A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts Shiraz-Persepolis is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s ongoing programme of displays curated from guest archives and drawing on the Whitechapel Gallery’s own history. A series of events including talks and tours accompanies the exhibition.

Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred
10 October 2015–13 March 2016 
Gallery 4
Free entry

The work of progressive English organisation The Kibbo Kift Kindred (1920–32) is presented in an archive exhibition, exploring the creative output of the group, whose idealistic ambitions for world peace were rooted in a shared appreciation of nature and handicraft.  Part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of exhibitions curated from archives, the display features rarely seen prints, photographs, woodcarvings and clothing, and revisits the group’s major exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1929. 

The Kibbo Kift Kindred was formed in 1920 by commercial artist, writer and pacifist John Hargrave after he became disillusioned with the perceived militaristic tendencies of the Boy Scout movement, of which he was a key figure. Hargrave’s new group expressed a complex social, economic and spiritual philosophy based on naturalist principles and committed themselves to the creation of a new world. Their 1929 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery was a means of spreading their ideas and philosophy to a wider public.

A highly original mystical-medieval-modernist style was adopted across the creative practices of Kibbo Kift, from their insignia to their costumes and rituals. Activities such as hiking and camping were pivotal and were given spiritual importance, while the group’s aesthetic drew heavily from ancient Egyptian, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Native American styles in craft, dress and language. The art of abstraction, advertising and experimental theatre were also key references. Kibbo Kift presents a forgotten moment in the history of British art and design but their futuristic vision continues to have resonance today.

Unusually for the time, Kibbo Kift was open to all ages and genders and allowed men, women, boys and girls to camp together. Although relatively small in number, the group’s notable members and supporters included suffragettes Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Mary Neal, scientist Julian Huxley, social reformer Havelock Ellis, novelist H. G. Wells and surrealist photographer Angus McBean.

This archive display, draws from major public and private collections including The Museum of London and London School of Economics, and offers a new interpretation of Kibbo Kift’s unique vision for the present day and sheds light on the diversity of the Whitechapel Gallery’s educational ethos in the early 20th century. 


Archive displays at Whitechapel Gallery 2015–16
Whitechapel Gallery
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