I'd Rather be Shopping 

Louise Ashcroft

18 August – 20 September 2017



From January to August 2017, artist Louise Ashcroft was in residence off-site at Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, East London, as part of arebyte’s 2017 programme, Control. Louise’s research trips to Westfield  revolved around the marketing strategies used in fashion, retail and shopping culture in general, from the language used for branding and advertisements, to the architecture of shopping environment and the emotional impact of the shoppers and visitors.

Click here to watch Louise’s video trailer.

At the culmination of her research in August, Louise presented a series of artworks at arebyte in Hackney Wick, a five-minute walk from Westfield.

#SIGNS: In April Louise worked with specialist sign painter Hannah Matthews to lead a workshop in which participants painted traditional narrow boat signs using words and phrases from fashionable slogan T-shirts found in Westfield, such as 'Sorry not sorry', 'I won't answer your texts' or 'Like is the new love', in lieu of boat names. Mass-produced languages of fast fashion were slowed down through this handmade process, which is traditionally used to christen boats Destiny, Dawdler or Narrow Escape (these are a few that frequent the river at Hackney Wick).

Louise made dozens of these boat signs, which were displayed in the exhibition and then gifted to boats along the Stratford waterways after the show.

Artist Happy Meals: Louise Ashcroft and collaborators redesigned the ‘happy’ toys given away with fast food in the shopping centre. Visitors to the Food Hall at Westfield can emailed a photograph of their fast food toy and their address and were sent an artist-designed toy instead, ones which will demonstrate a more complex range of emotions. Designs and prototypes were displayed as part of the exhibition.

Retail Therapy: A bookable shopping service and performance tour of Westfield. Individually or in small groups, members of the public will visited the Shopping Centre, where they were guided through a selection of playful (pseudo)psychoanalytical activities by Louise. 

Grimy Goods: Louise compiled words from the shopping catalogues in Westfield to create a cut-up text, which will be recorded as a track by local grime artist Maxsta. Westfield was built on top of an important grime venue and the area of E3 is the home of this influential music genre. This track was played in the exhibition and performed live by Maxsta.

Deviant Planning Committee: Collaborating with UCL students at The Institute for Global Prosperity, Louise is compiling an inventory of deviations; ways to use the Olympic Park other than what the architects, council, businesses and planners had in mind. This will be presented as a map with diagrams.

arebyte commissioned Heath Bunting to create a series of texts on the theme of consumerism, to accompany I'd Rather Be Shopping:

Louise Ashcroft's practice is generated from actions and observations made in ordinary places like the supermarket, a stranger's house, a LinkedIn profile, or the street. These contexts are used as material for social collages and subversions which reprogram prevailing cultural logic and suggest alternatives. For example, planning a life together with strangers while helping them with their housework (Why Don't We Live Together?, 2016-17); repeatedly smuggling unfamiliar-looking African vegetables into supermarkets and trying to buy them (Vegetable, 2003-17); or working with communities in Exeter to redesign the entire Internet from scratch using whatever materials were to hand (Remaking the Internet, 2016).

Louise studied at The Royal College of Art and The Ruskin School of Art, Oxford. She is co-founder of the free art school AltMFA. She has exhibited widely including at Westminster Waste, The Koppel Project, The Government Art Collection, Exeter Phoenix, AVU Prague, Latitude Festival, Guest Projects, Turner Contemporary (Margate), ArtLicks Weekend, The Boring Conference and The Function Room. Louise was recently Family Artist in Residence at Camden Arts Centre and Tate Schools Artist in Residence. She is also a visiting lecturer at various universities including UCA Farnham and Goldsmiths.

Developed in collaboration with Nimrod Vardi. Supported by arebyte and Arts Council England