Our first solo show at Site Gallery in Sheffield, The Shops Project was the culmination of a four-year international project, which brought together intimate portraits of local shops and contemporary urban life.
Commissioned by Site, we travelled to cities in Brazil, China, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and back to Sheffield to engage with a wide range of communities and audiences. Our interest lay in looking at societies through the lens of their local shops, showing the possibilities of local difference amidst the dominant, highly commodified world of shops and shopping. Throughout the project, we invited shop owners, staff and customers to become involved in a process of participation and exchange, which investigated the regular patterns of life around certain shops and how they reflect a city and its people at that moment in time.
The exhibition comprised of a combination of photographs, videos, audio and text works, collected objects and notes from the international projects, alongside works made with Sheffield’s very own J B Hats ’n’ Things in Pitsmoor and Bardwell’s (Electronic Components) on Abbeydale Road.
The SHOPS project had its beginnings in 2005, when we were commissioned by ANTI Festival, Kuopio, Finland to create the work Five Shops, in which we asked five city centre shops to invite their customers to participate in a ritual group photograph. We continued to develop the project at the Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance, the Liverpool Biennial (2006) and at EASTinternational, Norwich (2007).
For the final strand of SHOPS, we worked with host institutions Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, China, Vector Association, Iasi, Romania, Galerija Škuc, Ljubljana, Slovenia and Platform Garanti, Istanbul, Turkey.