The green on black sign was adopted by Lydia Heath, Gallery Manager at ONCA to be displayed outside their building in Brighton throughout 2017. For the weekend 29 September - 1 October, the sign was taken to Bethnal Green in London to form part of the exhibition Rising, curated by artist Katie Goodwin as part of the Art Licks Weekend 2017. It returned to ONCA until mid November when it moved to its new host UH Arts in Hertfordshire to form part of their exhibition Slow Violence.
2017 was another busy year for ONCA with a host of curated exhibitions, events and talks taking place alongside our normal rental bookings. Highlights include: a retrospective exhibition celebrating just some of the amazing environmental artists we’ve worked with since 2012 and the launch of our new branding. An interactive community sculpture project led by artist Solange Leon exploring animal and human migration. Transforming our courtyard into a micro theatre during Brighton Fringe, and giving out our first Green Curtain award to Jamal Harewood for his brilliant performance The Privileged exploring identity and race. Working with Brighton University Architecture students to imagine a new art space for the city. Commissioning the first live data air pollution installation by Wesley Goatley and Tobias Revell for Brighton Digital Festival. Partnering with HOUSE Biennial to exhibit workshop outcomes from Becky Warnocks community project with Brighton Table Tennis Club and finally our flagship annual exhibition for Remembrance Day for Lost Species focussing this year on the role of ritual in honouring lost and disappearing pollinators.
It’s been great to have Ellie Harrison’s sign outside the gallery. It’s served as the catalyst for many interesting conversations between us and the public about art’s role in raising awareness of environmental issues. Being situated in a busy city with the UK’s only Green MP, Brighton has positioned itself as a unique urban setting to explore sustainable alternatives to capitalism. So having what looked like, at first glance, a sign for a business with the words CLIMATE CHANGE spinning round in the sea breeze felt very timely and important. Particularly as there has been such a sharp increase in storms and high winds this year. The location of our gallery was the perfect setting for such a visual pun, nestled in between business with a plethora of signs vying for people’s attention and money, it acted as a disruption to the ‘business as usual’ mode of the high street.
In its early years ONCA focused very heavily on direct action and fundraising for conservation projects and most of the work it exhibited had very clear links to that. As time has gone on our programming has diversified, reflecting what we’ve learnt about how environmental issues are often interlinked with issues of social justice and political structures. Exhibiting Ellie Harrison’s sign which has clear political motivations, but packaged in a way that is not at first obvious to the viewer felt, therefore, entirely appropriate for this curatorial shift. We feel it is important to hold a space for multiple perspectives and viewpoints where the clumsiness and uncertainty of working towards a better future can exist without the pressure of providing all the answers. Ellie’s sign has appealed to a wide range of people and allowed us to engage with those that wouldn’t normally visit a gallery or consider themselves to be interested in contemporary art. Being outside of the white cube exhibition space and amongst the masses on the street has helped to break down social barriers with our audiences and strengthen existing relationships.
Being an Early Warning Signs host venue has been a very positive experience and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity, we look forward to seeing how the project develops and hope to work with Ellie again in the not too distant future.