A charity shop by any other name..…

As a lay person, I do not understand the concept of art installations. I look at Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” installation sold for good money and remind myself that I have a house full of messy beds that could make me a mint should I be disposed to reveal my lifestyle in public.

So, imagine my thoughts when I visited the Artangel installation at Selfridges departmental store in London’s Oxford Street last week only to find a concession on the third floor full of old clothes and bric à brac. I was reminded that I have wardrobes of such stuff stuffed into packets and boxes collecting dust and probably a few moths. I imagined the fortune I could make at the Saatchi art gallery were I to combine in one installation my messy beds with my wardrobes of stuff  – two for the price of one so to speak …. a dreamy sigh emitted as my mind’s eye absorbs the minimalism creeping into my house.

Well I have learned something this week from the concession that involves Norwood Jewish Charity Shop, London Buddhist Centre Charity Shop, Spitalfields Crypt Charity Shop in solidarity with Islamic Relief Charity Shop at Selfridges, brought to you courtesy Miranda July (Grossinger to her family) in collaboration with Artangel. There was nothing angelic about what I saw. Amongst the second hand rejectionist displays were workers from the charities placing labels on goods, their demeanour serene and caring.

I also found there a woman, incongruous in that environment. She was dressed as if she’d raided a theatre wardrobe, wearing what reminded me of a colonial type khaki safari suit with red trimmings, leather gloves, shoes and phone cover, in matching red. She was holding this phone close to her chest filming as she skulked around, contriving to be invisible, not that her porcelain dead-pan face, baby-doll hairdo and strange attire didn’t attract attention. Confused? Well so was I, wondering where the art was and why this woman was filming right up against the bookshelves then turning to focus on the few of us brave enough to enter the solidarity booth.

Like me you might be wondering the purpose of this junk shop concession run by three IMG_5101charities in solidarity with an alleged terrorist supporting charity in a posh departmental store.  And you may also ask what it has to do with art, and wondering why a charity simply known as Norwood seemingly accepted a name change to Norwood Jewish charity shop.

The idea is to create an art piece to highlight the perverseness of Islamophobia based on the assumption that some people assume that Islamic organisations or individuals could be potential terrorists.

I hope you’re still with me on this, because it gets more complicated.

To deal with these assumptions the idea is to use charity as a force for good, the four religions it’s vehicle. I understand that the UK was chosen as ideal by this Los Angeles based artist as for some curious reason the nature of charity in the UK allows for the embracing of secondary concepts like capitalism and consumerism.

This intersectionality of charity with bric à brac/old clothes, religion and race-hate in the form of Islamophobia, situated in a posh departmental store is the bedrock for an art piece in the making that will clearly benefit from this added political angle. So far so good. As my art tutor explained:

The problem is that the desired reality or truth to reflect this, wasn’t there …. so, elements had to be made up. Reality was therefore revised or bent to accommodate the artist’s truth. Names of organisations changed. Norwood becomes Norwood “Jewish Charity Shop” and so with the other charity names, to create the impression that these are three religious charities, which they are not. The word “Worldwide” was conveniently dropped from Islamic Relief and “Charity Shop” was added. 

Added to intersectionality is the dimension of revisionism whereby the artist creates facts to suit the narrative. My tutor explains further:

This is an “artist” without integrity and transparency. Regardless of the subject matter this approach loses respect immediately. And we are not talking here about artist’s license which is fair enough as long as the work is not about reflecting “truth”. Legally, the money is being raised for 4 non-existent organisations, which are not registered under the names that appear on the shop front.

In addition, at the head of all this lies the “star” of the show, namely Islamic Relief, that is alleged to be a terror sponsoring organisation – so it does justify fear or phobia, rejection and accusation, leaving the artist to defend the charity in order to defend the work and the warped interpretation of reality.

The crown here is the decision to portray the three charities, Jewish, Buddhist and Christian as acting in solidarity with Islamic Relief, so creating the impression that the three charities are in solidarity with the fourth when in reality it is the “artist” manipulating truth. My tutor’s conclusion:

The artist is actually creating Fake news!

This exposure will perhaps help the charities understand why there is a drive to oppose this collaboration that on the face of it is an innocent attempt to expose race-hate, but in reality, is an attempt to fool everyone, especially the charities who seemingly have taken this art installation at face value, benefitting them with the promise of increased exposure for their good works. In fact, the exposure they are receiving as a result of this folly is aligning them in solidarity with a charity of alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

My idea of art is something I can look at and enjoy. Charity of course is something else that we all hopefully contribute toward in our own chosen way. My choice would exclude any charity that could be seen to be in solidarity with one surrounded in controversy. You can read about it: Here here here The information in these articles are in the public domain. Whilst I am not commenting on the factual voracity, I am simply curious as to why three well-known and respected charities decided to work in solidarity with this particular charity.

Utilising charities in the name of art to  expand a career and further a political ideology is not very attractive. Given the rise in global terrorism, it is also potentially dangerous.

About the Author
Sharon Klaff lives in London with her family where she is active in combating replacement ideology and antisemitism. She is a founder member of Campaign4Truth, the grassroots group established in 2009 and affiliated with Eye on Antisemitism monitoring anti-Semitism on social media.
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