During her residency Gal considered issues of feminism, activism, and labour; taking inspiration from the 50th Anniversary of the Sewing Machinist Strike at the Dagenham Ford Plant and the 100-year anniversary of suffrage and the Representation of the People Act in 1918.
Gal worked alongside young people to explore women’s historical role within a gendered division of labour, creating personal responses to the histories of women’s activism and developing a shared view for the future. Addressing notions of the home and the workplace, exploring historic and current ideas about skilled/unskilled definitions of labour, invisible/unpaid labour and equal pay.
Using materials and techniques often associated with the domestic and women’s work, Gal created new contexts to engage with and use textiles, radically altering the conventional use of fabric.
The residency culminated in an exhibition at Valance House Museum, Dagenham, from December 18 – February 19.
This project builds on The White House’s commitment to creating opportunities for young people living in Barking & Dagenham. The White House currently supports young people from Barking & Dagenham to design and create their own projects to benefit their local community through its Dungeons & Dragons Youth Group; provides training opportunities for young people to create new routes into the creative industries; and hosts successful young people-run initiatives such as Sofa Slam.
Gal Leshem is a London-based artist with a socially engaged practice. Both her work and the projects she leads explore the influence of local histories on personal narratives and the cultural identities of particular communities. Through engagement with textile, print, ceramics and video, she invites the intimacy of the familial, the bodily and the confessional into the work. Recent works and projects include: Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Block 336, London (2018), Artist-in-residence, The Israeli Centre for Digital Art, Holon, Israel (2018), Artist-in-residence, Water Tower Art Fest, Myasto 167, Sofia (2018), 70 Degel, Bet – Elians, Jerusalem (2018), Constellations, Flat Time House, London (2017-18), Mostyn/Agore, Mostyn, Wales (2017), Baesquit, BAES, London (2017), Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Baltic, Newcastle (2017), Tate Modern & Tate Britain School Workshop Programme, London (2016-17), Perpetual Inventory, BAES, London (2016), Reconstructing Textiles, Constance Howard Gallery, London (2015), Hotel Elephant Gallery After School Programme, London (2014-15).
Change Makers is a year-long artistic residency in one of Britain’s largest secondary schools, Sydney Russell School in Barking and Dagenham. Marking the 100-year anniversary of suffrage and the Representation of the People Act in 1918, the residency celebrates the rich feminist heritage of Barking and Dagenham, exploring the female heroes that have come to define the borough’s past and present – and boldly imagining how its young people will go on to define its future and become the change makers of tomorrow. Working with different classes from Sydney Russell School throughout 2018 , artists and companies including leading theatre company Complicite, beatboxer Bellatrix and award-winning filmmaker Eelyn Lee, have been working with students and teaching staff at the school to deliver an ambitious and wide-ranging programme of creative projects. Change Makers is unique edition in Barbican’s work supporting creative arts practice in schools and colleges.