What I Believe

Issue section: 
(342)

Space, Hackney, until 19 December

Ruth Beale's project is to stage an exhibition of political and literary pamphlets dating from the 1930s until today with some paintings based on them.

It is not just something to look at, although all the pamphlets can be picked up and read. It is a piece of political art designed to provoke discussion on the history of the political intervention that a pamphlet represented and represents, and whether this is still relevant in the internet age.

There are four displays of pamphlets, one focusing on peace, another on literature and two on politics, including Marxist and socialist classics.

The paintings relate to the literary pamphlets capturing now largely forgotten pieces such as What I Believe by E M Forster and Antiquarian Prejudice by John Betjeman.

Each Tuesday at 7pm until 8 December there is a discussion about one of the pamphlets with free copies available to read beforehand to provoke an informed debate on art and politics. On the weekend of 12 December there is symposium on the theme of agitation.

When I looked around, a group of people were discussing the role of pamphlets in art, culture and politics and I think their drift was that pamphlets these days are hard to come by.

I doubt that will be the experience of many readers, who will find newly published pamphlets at demonstrations, meetings and in the few remaining radical bookshops.

They do a thriving trade at many times the original price in the second handbook trade.

However, there are many who will be unfamiliar with pamphlet literature and the sheer variety of subjects and approaches covered by the pamphlets in the exhibition, from orthodox Trotskyism and radical feminism to Stalinism and union campaigns. It is an excellent way into the history of the form.

People are encouraged to browse, so if you have time to spare you may stumble across a pamphlet you have heard about but never seen. Or, if you are a seasoned activist, it may set off thoughts about the future of pamphlet literature.

All in all this is an engrossing and timely show demonstrating the connections between art, literature, politics and activism that are all too rarely made.