Present Past

In Studio 14 we are aiming to better understand our reading of the past. In continuing our ‘reading’ of Lewes we found that we invited to ‘read’ histories, that were both local, and very far removed.

‘Stories Seen Through a Glass Plate. 1914-18: Lewes Remembers’ is an exhibition of 80 light boxes placed in 65 windows located throughout the town. Images placed in the light boxes come from an archive of photographs that has evolved since 1858, when Edward Reeves first opened his Studio in the High Street of Lewes. This is about memory, perhaps nostalgia, and our ability through image to connect the present with the past

‘241 Days’ is by contrast an installation of printed historical text, displayed in the windows of the former Sweet Shop in Lansdown Road. ‘241 Days – edited and translated by Bolzem, abridged and produce by the Sweet Shop’ describes events in Petrograd, Russia during 1917. Clearly it is related to the 100 years anniversary of the 1917 February and October revolutions; yet why here in Lewes?

Lewes likes to think of itself as non-conformist with perhaps anarchistic tendencies? It was once the home of political activist Thomas Paine, although this was for a relatively short period, and now over two hundred years ago. Essentially it is a well to do English town that today is a very far remove from matters involved in the transformation of the Russian Empire towards becoming the Soviet Union?

But why not; why not present history through windows, and in such a way that attention and reading is required? This is an interesting idea – that as we pass along the street, rather than being seduced or induced into buying things, we might instead be informed, or reminded of other matters – of the past in relation to the present.

It is also interesting to note that from 1790 Thomas Paine was not welcome in England, so concerned were the political authorities about the possibility of revolution. While later, a more tolerant attitude, in 1849, allowed London to become the home of the exiled Karl Marx; and in 1907, place of the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party, attended by Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin!




Lansdown Sweet Shop Windows


Reeves Archive