Touchstones Art Gallery and Museum will open two new exhibitions this October, which both explore ideas of Rochdale heritage, community and representation.

Centring on film works created with the participation of community groups from Rochdale, Helen Cammock’s Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks and Jasleen Kaur’s Gut Feelings Meri Jaan will run concurrently until February 2022.

For Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks, 2019 Turner Prize winner Helen Cammock has taken the hugely influential 1884 Rochdale Principles of Co-operation as a point of departure, looking to reconnect with these ideas through open dialogues with residents of Rochdale.

Continuing a practice which includes film, photography, print, text, song and performance to explore social histories and question mainstream historical narratives, Cammock has brought together residents and community groups of Rochdale to examine what it means to exist as part of a community.

Taking an eclectic selection of items from Touchstones’ public art collection and archive – which will also be on display as part of the exhibition – a diverse group of people, including Rochdale’s former mayor, young people, a local artist, a retired joiner and a Ukrainian women’s choir, were invited to breathe new life and narratives into these objects and uncover strikingly different facets of Rochdale.

Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks was co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, Contemporary Art Society (with support from the Mbili Foundation) and The Photographers’ Gallery, in partnership with Touchstones Rochdale. Supported by Arts Council England.

This work has been commissioned for the collection of Touchstones Rochdale as part of Equal Shares, a collaboration between Film and Video Umbrella and Contemporary Art Society, supported by the Mbili Foundation, to enable museums and galleries in the north-west of England to commission, exhibit and acquire new moving image work by artists.

Exploring Rochdale heritage and official histories from a different perspective is artist Jasleen Kaur’s Gut Feelings Meri Jaan, which responds to the local archives at Touchstones by bringing to the forefront the voices of migrant communities within the town’s social history, which have historically been marginalised and misrepresented.

During a series of online gatherings and conversations held by Kaur over a 9-month period, a group of women and gender non-conforming participants from Rochdale’s local South Asian community were invited to critique the contents of the Ethnic Minorities section of the local archives at Touchstones, questioning how notions of cultural heritage are preserved and considering the human body as a living archive and carrier of histories.

The resulting work is a multiple-screen film installation in which customs and rituals preserved by group members and their families are performed in specific locations in and around Rochdale, including Touchstones, the town centre and the region’s rural landscape. The films are also accompanied by a bi-lingual reference book in English and Urdu, printed on seed paper, documenting the conversations and texts studied by the group over the course of their time together.

Exhibition Dates: 23 October 2021 – 12 February 2022

Public Hours: Wed – Sat 10am – 5pm; Sun 10am – 4pm


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