East London-based artist, writer and activist Ju Gosling is fighting to quell elitism in London’s art scene.
Gosling sits perfectly poised – a result of her early dance training – on her plush sofa as she matter-of-factly launches an enthralling assault on all that’s wrong in the London arts scene. She is electric with social consciousness and speaks with passion.
Amidst the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in the BAFTAs or the Oscars, her focus is angled much closer to home.
For 50-something Gosling, the lack of art facilities and funding in London’s inner city boroughs is a massive issue and one which leads to marginalisation of working class, young, disabled and LGBT people.
Getting rid of marginalisation and opening up the arts to people from disadvantage backgrounds was something that was promised along with the 2012 Olympic legacy. The promise was poorly kept, and instead an elitist attitude prevails.
Gosling says, “The South Bank has a very suburban audience which I don’t think makes it easy for people who live in the inner city, where there are very few cultural facilities. I don’t think our great institutions do a very good job of representing people very well.”
To make sure the promis of the Olympic legacy is not forgotten, Gosling works closely with Together 2012 – an organisation which is dedicated to engaging disadvantaged people with art.
But there’s a long way to go – privilege and thinly veiled prejudice dominates our galleries and theatres.
“The discourse surrounding disabled artists is very much about picking them up and plonking them in front of audiences which is regarded as being largely white, hetrosexual, abled-bodied. I don’t like this idea that if you’re well-off enough and middle class enough to pay to see something at the South Bank then your opinion matters more.”
Gosling uses a wheelchair due to her own disability and has an uncomfortable awareness of how non-able bodied people are treated.
This is something Gosling has focused on in her book ‘ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure’.
Before the book was released, Gosling put on her ABNORMAL exhibition at the National Institute of Medical Research. With body dysmorphia at it’s centre, the ABNORMAL exhibition used complex digital art and photography to highlight the treatment of people who have ‘abnormal’ bodies.
Julie Newman, who has documented most of Ju’s work, says, “She creates in a very transparent and logical process. Her perspective is analytical and thoughtful, seeking the absolute truth in her work, and stopping short of leading others down a path they may not wish to engage with.”
Due to her own artistic prowess, Gosling has been called upon to take part in the re-opening of the Tate Modern, in June. In a bid to encourage young people to engage with art, students from 100 London schools will be visiting the new Tate exhibitions.
Gosling says, “It’s important to tell young people that they have a right to a point of view on art. I think if you grow up in inner city boroughs and don’t have access to the arts then you do feel disempowered.
“The sad thing about East London is that we’re the most multicultural community in the world and yet, you have all those visual art traditions which should be coming to the surface, infusing and making something new and yet artists aren’t getting on the starting blocks.”
Follow Ju on Twitter for updates on her work: @ju90artist