If you're in Brixton in the coming weeks, or looking for a pensive antidote to Christmas TV, then drop by a new exhibition People, Signs and Resistance: on The Frontline at 198 Gallery in Brixton. Situated on Railton Road, itself once infamous as "The Frontline" and a crucial part of the 1981 Brixton Riots, this exhibition draws upon the personal films of Clovis Salmon, known as "Sam The Wheels" after his cycle repair shop, who has documented his experiences of Brixton between the 1960s and 1980s with little more than a camera tucked under his coat.
Showing alongside Sam The Wheels are a number of works by artists in response to these films. Local filmmaker George Amponsah has worked with young people to devise films that investigate knife crime, the Windrush Generation and Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech. George Butler has produced an interactive video piece featuring poets, activists and local residents, whilst Nada Prlja examines the redevelopment of religious spaces. Tim Blake considers the consequences that have taken place over the years since the demise of colonialism, and all under the watchful eye of topiary lion.
The minimal surroundings of the 198 Gallery give this thoughtful and provocative exhibition time to breathe although the presentation of the work is not always as gutsy as the subject matter on show. But, by unveiling his secret footage, Sam The Wheels has become an unexpected catalyst for community arts and heritage collaboration, and a further reminder of the historical importance of Brixton.
By Tommy Wong
The exhibition runs till 21 February at 198 Railton Road, SE24 with special events forthcoming, including an evening with Sam the Wheels on 28 January.
Image of Brixton Riot damage courtesy of Sam the Wheels' website.