A Visit to 'The Cornershop'
Above: Lucy Sparrow and partner in the Cornershop;
Right: The Felt Shop Sign
I am in a cornershop in Bethnal Green, hungry and in need of a chocolate Revel or two; but this is no ordinary cornershop. There is not a Minstrel, Flake or Hobnob to be seen: at least, not of the chocolate variety.
Lucy Sparrow (pictured left) has created a fully stocked suburban shop out of cotton and felt. It is an immersive simulacrum of the real thing, and I feel as if I've stepped into a strangely soft and padded version of daily life; even the fruit and veg smile up at me with beady little eyes. However, don't be fooled; this is not some 'cutesy' playhouse. Sparrow's 'shop' installation is interlaced with the rasp of witty social comment.
Two girls lurk outside the shop, one clad in a mini-skirt and hoop earrings, the other track-suited with hood; both brandishing 'stitched' cans of lager. They proffer 'stitched' pound notes to shop visitors and ask for cigarettes in hushed tones, hoping to circumvent the '18+' sign above the cash register. Yelling ensues. Felt cans are thrown.
Inside, amongst the cat food, cereal and iced lollies, the more sordid and salacious items take on a comic air in their felt state; smutty magazines appear almost tragically absurd, whilst condoms and pregnancy tests conjure up visions of awkward buying interactions.
Sparrow seemingly hits out at our hurried buying practices: she turns the banal into art.
Each stitch pays homage to branding and packaging design; and although everything is truly for sale (and is displayed complete with fluoro price-tag), the soft edges of the items engage an aestheticised 'fuzzy' nostalgia as the works stand-in for the real thing. Ultimately, Sparrow subtly repositions the value of each item within personal and cultural memories of consumption, and asks us to delight in the memory.
Visit 'The Cornershop' at 19 Wellington Row, Bethnal Green, London E2 7BB 10am-7pm any day until the 31st of August, 2014.