uni of leicester, celebrating 100 years of change
Image with artwork hanging on a washer line.

The World is a Work in Progress

25 September 2021 – 16 January 2022 
The World is a Work in Progress is an exhibition that invites local communities, contemporary artists and our visitors to come together to share their visions for the future. Encompassing tactile tapestry, spaces for thinking and dreamingbrand new sculpture and protest banners, the exhibition features newly commissioned works, co-produced projects and several significant loans by artists whose work actively engages with the conditions of our time. 
The artists represented in the exhibition respond to these themes in markedly different ways, but their practices are connected by an interest in social and political activism, co-production and concepts of futurity. Some highlight the inequalities and prejudice that exist in our societies today, acting as a call to action in the here and now. Other works explore a variety of possible futures and invite us to collaborate in imagining the future that we want for ourselves and our communities. If the world is a work in progress, what do we want to change? What might the next 100 years have in store? 
A brightly coloured poster with the following text and imagery: "body mind blowing work outs for a neuro futuristic 2050". "reimagine, respect, reenergise, reconnect, regroup, rewild, resist, repatriate, repair". A woman in the centre of the poster stands in an odd pose with four arms with a giant spider/octopus like creature on her head.
Birds eye view of books in boxes
The University of Leicester celebrates its centenary in Autumn 2021. It is no coincidence that the public fund that would go on to endow the University of Leicester was opened on Armistice Day in 1918. Then known as the University College for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, the University College was envisaged as a ‘living memorial’ to the sacrifices of local people in the First World War. Leicester was to have, as the local paper put it, “more than a mere artistic war memorial”. The University motto ’Ut vitam habeant’ (‘so that they may have life’) stands as a permanent reminder on every publication and degree certificate issued since. We are the only European university founded as a memorial to the First World War, and one of only two anywhere in the world. 

Participating Artists 

Ruth Beale, Michael Forbes, Khush Kali, Vince Laws, Bob & Roberta SmithKai Syng Tan, Jessica Voorsanger. 
Ruth Beale 

Ruth Beale is a London-based artist who works collectively and collaboratively, exploring the ways that culture, governance and social discourse create society. Her practice includes socially-engaged processes, as well as drawing, performance, film and installation. For this exhibition, Ruth has compiled a library drawn from her father’s extensive collection of science fiction books. The library is presented houses within custom-built shelves that reference HG Wells’ novel ‘Men Like Gods’ (1923) which takes place within a parallel utopian universe. Visitors are invited to dip into these many and varied speculative worldsthat perhaps tell us more about the hopes and fears of the times in which they were written than the futures that they attempt to predict.

Michael Forbes 

Michael Forbes is an artist whose practice explores blackness and whiteness in relation to contemporary racial politics, migration, history and religion. His work encompasses sculpture, installations, photography, digital media and curation. Attenborough Arts Centre has commissioned Michael to create five new sculptures for inclusion in ‘The World is a Work in Progress’. Presented alongside a selection of the artist’s Black Paintings, the works explore blackness and whiteness and the harmful consequences of a society that promotes division and accepts white supremacy. 

Michael has exhibited nationally and internationally, at venues including; Royal Sculpture Society, Saatchi Gallery, White Cube, Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects, and the 57th Venice Art BiennaleHe is currently undertaking a residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and in 2020 he was awarded an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art. 

Khush Kali 

Working across collage, drawing, textiles, digital media, sculpture, video and text, Khush Kali uses the remixing of patterns, images, rituals and processes to explore identity, cultural heritage, personal history and the everyday experience of the urban environment. Khush will be working with a group of young people in Beaumont Leyto create a series of Augmented Reality artworks in response to Ruth Beale’s installation. The results will appear in the exhibition after October half term, when visitors will be able to interact with the works via their own smart devices in the exhibition space.  

Vince Laws 

Vince Laws is a poet, artist, performer, and campaigner. He is interested in taking poetry off the page and into paintings, text art, posters, films, concepts, installations, and performanceSince 2014 Vince has been engaged in an ongoing campaign to highlight the deaths of disabled people dealing with the Department for Work and Pensions. So far, he has made 25 shrouds collectively titled ‘DWP Deaths Make Me Sick’. Each shroud commemorates the life of a named person who died as a result of the hostile environment for disabled people created by the DWPVince has described the painful process of making the shrouds, driven by the need to keep on shouting about the human rights abuses of the current government“They are very sad. But also very powerful because they are the truth.”

Bob & Roberta Smith 

Best known for the works ‘Make Art Not War’ (1997) and ‘Letter to Michael Gove’ (2011), Bob and Roberta Smith believes that art is an important element in democratic life. A British artist who trained as a sign painter in New York, Bob and Roberta uses text as an art form, creating colourful slogans on banners and placards that challenge elitism and advocate the importance of creativity in politics and education. Alongside a selection of recent works, we will be presenting ‘Help Art Save Lives’, developed by Bob & Roberta Smith and Jessica VoorsangerThis participatory initiative invites visitors to create an artwork of their own that can be sold for a small donation to a lifesaving charity. The exhibition will include a new collaborative artwork created by Bob & Roberta Smith and Jessica Voorsanger. 

Kai Syng Tan 

Kai Syng Tan is a UK-based artist, curator, consultant, academic, hyperactive running-messenger, atypical Octopussy and Exceptionally Talented Mind-Full BusyBody Extraordinaire. She mobilises artistic and artful processes across disciplinary/cultural/geopolitical borders to catalyse conversations and actions for change.   

In response to the provocation that ‘The World is a Work in Progress’, Kai has created an installation and durational performance titled ‘A Neuro-Futuristic 2050’. With this new work the artist asks us to consider the question: what would a neurodiversity-led reality look like? She proposes that art has a vital role to play in creating bold visions of how things might be better, and that each of us can play an active part in that process. Encompassing video, performance, print and large-scale tactile tapestry in an oversaturated, over the top, tentacular presentation, ‘A Neuro-Futuristic 2050’ is a call to action that references more-than-human, non-western philosophy, and draws on Chinese body-mind-place poetics, as performed by an Octopussy. At various moments throughout the exhibition the artist will host live performances and conversations with visitors and special guests, in the gallery and online.