Couriers of Taste explores the relationship between international trade, global consumerism and cross-cultural influences. Through a selection of drawings, cyanotypes, installation and sculptures the exhibition also reflects on Danson House’s past as a place built for leisure and decadence, seeped in and tainted by the 18th century trade and trafficking of peoples and culture.
In the 18th century new goods from around the world were influencing consumption, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, spices, cottons and silks, changing the habits and fashions of society. Citing works within the historical context of Danson House, Couriers of Taste considers a wider view of today’s global trade practices and power structures. The themes of trade are explored alongside the darker nuances of identity politics, racism, production values, authorship and the contested territory of exoticism.
This exhibition stems from SINOPTICON, a major on-going contemporary art project that considers value and taste, fantasy, replication and the stereotyping of images through the form and decorative narrative in chinoiserie. ‘Chinoiserie’, a French term meaning ‘Chinese-esque’, derived from the Seventeenth Century as an entirely European style that was influenced wholly from China and the East. Like most 18th century houses Danson House would have housed ceramics and possibly wall papers from China, and would almost certainly have housed furniture and collectible items which borrowed chinoiserie elements.
Couriers of Taste looks unflinchingly at both the contentious and often abhorrent implications of trade; fashion, taste, power and desirability that power global commerce. The works present a poignant reflection of the concerns of artists practicing today and how history influences our understanding of the world.
Sinopticon website: www.sinopticon.org