Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained By Amelia Crouch
Leeds Corn Exchange, April - July 2010.

Leeds is a city built upon industry and trade, with many of its fine buildings the result of nineteenth century industrial or mercantile wealth. The Corn Exchange (1864) was part of a phase of rapid development, often associated with the textile industry, the growth of engineering and a narrative of ‘civic pride.’ Yet, to get the full story, one must pay attention not only to factories and production but also to the role of market-places; to the development of commercial associations and the availability of finance.

Amelia Crouch’s artwork – a series of posters displayed on the balcony level of the Corn Exchange – uses this history to invite parallels with our contemporary situation in the wake of the recent banking crisis. Particularly the work considers the repeal of the Corn Laws (1846) – which levied tariffs on imported produce – as being symbolic of a general political trend towards free trade throughout the 1800’s. Though the course of free trade has not run smoothly (protectionism and government intervention were re-introduced in the depression of 1929-31), it is a narrative that resonates with us today. The Anti-Corn Law movement was in part an attempt to wrest wealth and political control from the hands of upper class landowners. The drive to free trade involved the benevolent belief that capitalism was good for everyone. Now that free trade has been globalised it is possible to argue that control has again been taken away from individuals and sits in the hands of global corporations. In such a situation venues including the Corn Exchange still provide an important home to independent traders.

Amelia Crouch is an artist whose artwork often uses words or a combination of text and image. She is intrigued by the ability of words to evoke other senses and call up myriad associations. Her work attempts to tap into what might be called a ‘collective cultural imagery’ – the associations and mental images that people carry with them already, that they have absorbed

References
- Burt, Steven & Grady, Kevin, ‘An Illustrated History of Leeds,’ Derby : Breedon Books., 1994.
- Grady, Kevin, Commercial, Marketing & Retailing Amenities, 1700-900, (pp.117-?). in Fraser, Derek ed., ‘A History of Modern Leeds,’ Manchester : Manchester University Press, 1980.
- McCord, Norman, ‘The Anti-Corn Law League: 1838-1846.’ London : Routledge, 2006.
- Mitchel, W.R., ‘A History of Leeds,’ Chichester : Phillimore, 2000.
- Pickering, Paul A, The people’s bread : a history of the Anti-Corn Law League, London : Leicester University Press, 2000.
- Unauthored pamphlet, Leeds City Markets: A review of market properties and some of their historical associations. Leeds City Council, 1934.

www.ameliacrouch.com

 

 

 

 

 

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