Union

Bowler, Noel (2018) Union. [Show/Exhibition]

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Abstract

Made over a 5-year period, Noel Bowler’s Union reveals the boardrooms and private offices of trade union buildings across the globe. The exhibition offers a rare glimpse into places where decisions and policies that affect so many are made. Bowler’s photographs show how the institutions of organised labour, designed to protect workers from exploitation in the nineteenth century, are responding to today’s economic uncertainty. Incorporating images from Russia, the USA, Poland and the UK, Union offers unprecedented access to rarely seen spaces, combining photographs of momentarily silent interiors of trade union offices alongside portraits of union leaders.

Bowler invites us to walk the well-trodden carpets and parquet floors, and to gaze at the utilitarian desks beneath strip lights and false ceilings. Each space offers clues to its inhabitants; flags, emblems and political posters allow the viewer’s imagination to populate each dormant scene. There is a dry humour to Bowler’s work, the sparse setting of the Union of Polish Teachers
in Warsaw is fittingly dominated by a large blackboard, whilst a cluttered desk at the Maritime Trades Department at the AFL-CIO in Washington DC demonstrates its inhabitant’s political leanings and sporting preferences. The ordinariness of many of these workspaces is undercut by the knowledge that these are sites where important contemporary battles around workers’ rights are taking place.

Bowler offers a unique insight into the pressures and challenges facing unions in this era of political and economic uncertainty, radical changes in traditional work practices and increased worker insecurity. This timely exhibition continues Bowler’s ongoing consideration of the political forces that shape our world, reflected through the organisation of social space.
Noel Bowler says, “Union is a journey through an anxious world where the apparent certainty of the past faces an unknown future.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a 128-page book made across 14 countries, published by Kehrer Verlag and features an essay by photographer Ken Grant. Grant says, “It’s heartening to spend time with Bowler’s quietly anchored work, to recognise the value and richness of all these sustained labours and understand that there are still sharp minds and strong hands ready to navigate difficult waters”

Anne McNeill, Director of Impressions Gallery says, “We are delighted to bring Noel Bowler’s work to Impressions Gallery. The exhibition has strong regional significance to Yorkshire, and in particular Bradford - the founding place of
the Independent Labour Party, precursor to the modern-day Labour party. The city and wider region is well known for its industrial past and strong-willed action for worker’s rights over the centuries. 2018 also marks 150 years since the establishment of the TUC (Trades Union Congress) making this exhibition a timely exploration of the role of today’s Trade Unions.”
Union by Noel Bowler is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and Culture Ireland.

Item Type: Show/Exhibition
Uncontrolled Keywords: photography, interior spaces, trade union
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Noel Bowler
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2021 14:03
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2021 14:03
URI: http://oars.uos.ac.uk/id/eprint/1859

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