Date(s) - Thu 12th Oct 2023 - Sun 22nd Oct 2023
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

The Exchange

British Textile Biennial - Overview & Opening Times

The industrial revolution transformed rural East Lancashire into an engine of fast fashion at the epicentre of a web that stretched across the globe; commandeering human and environmental resources across continents in a vicious cycle of labour, manufacture and trade that persists today and which we now know is unsustainable.

The third edition of the British Textile Biennial (BTB23) traces the routes of fibres and fabrics across continents and centuries to and from the north of England in a series of commissions and exhibitions throughout October in the spaces left behind by the Lancashire textile industry. From the so-called ‘slave cloth’, spun and woven by hand on the Pennine moors, to the bales of used fast fashion that make their way from British high streets to the markets and toxic mountains of waste in West Africa, BTB23 follows that journey.

BTB23 will run from 29 September – 29 October.


PUBLIC OPEN DAYS ARE: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

10am – 4pm free entry

Thierry Oussou – Equilibrium Wind

The Cotton Exchange was built in 1865 to sell raw cotton picked by enslaved African labourers in the plantations of the Caribbean and American colonies to mill owners in Lancashire. Its completion coincided with the end of the American Civil War which marked the beginning of the end of slavery and the end of cotton being imported from the plantations of the south so no cotton was ever traded here.

In the installation, Equilibrium Wind, Thierry Oussou exhibits raw cotton from the plantation of the same name in his hometown in Benin, which he farms with workers from the local area, offering better conditions than the big plantations that dominate the country. This is the first cotton to be shown here, this time grown and picked in Africa by African people.

Victoria Udondian – Ofong Ufok

Ofong Ufok was developed by the artist with immigrant communities in New York, notably Stitch Buffalo, a textile centre located near the artist’s studio, that empowers refugee and immigrant women by giving them opportunities to create handcrafted goods and gain independence.

Victoria collaborated closely with community members, ensuring they are fairly compensated for their contributions. Each piece of clothing holds a unique tale, allowing the participants’ stories to become a part of the artwork. Victoria says, “I was interested in questioning notions of labour, and the role of immigrants in labour productivity. The piece took us about 3000 hours to produce across the period of 5 – 6 months. Working with used clothes was also significant as I began to consider how fast fashion is produced mostly in the global south under repressive conditions. These clothes end up in landfills, having a huge impact on the environment.” Coming from Nigeria, Victoria has seen that impact at first hand in the many used clothing markets and landfill dumps.

Nest Collective – Return to Sender

Return to Sender is a film and ambient soundtrack, which is a compilation of sounds recorded at various second-hand clothing markets across Nairobi, Kenya. The installation that houses it is constructed entirely from bales of used garments, known as ‘mitumba’ in Swahili, which are discarded in huge volumes by people in Europe and America and shipped to Africa for disposal. These bales are sold to vast markets in various countries in Africa, notably Ghana, Nigeria and, in this case, Kenya. Up to 40% of the clothing in the bales is unusable and is dumped in clothing mountains that pollute the environment in these places. Thus, the waste of the Global North becomes a major problem for the countries of the South which have to manage, often at high cost and with no infrastructure, the unwanted stock.

The NEST collective, whose work spans film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature, is based in Nairobi, Kenya and was founded in 2012.  Drawing on the contemporary urban African experience, their practice explores the historical, colonial and post-colonial past of African communities and their possible futures, while exposing current global problems that are interconnected and concern us all.

Common Wealth – Fast, Fast, Slow

Fast, Fast, Slow is a unique performance exploring the complexity of our personal relationships to fashion, fast fashion and waste. With a catwalk as its centre-piece, Fast, Fast, Slow showcases concept collections from six co-creators from Blackburn and Burnley and collaborators from The Revival in Accra, Ghana, a community-led sustainable design and campaigning organisation. Wear it once, wear forever, body dysmorphia and urban protection, clothing is many things to many people.

Fast, Fast, Slow will feature a catwalk made from used clothing bales, video art, cinematic lighting, bold choreography and a specially commissioned electronic score. Audience will be seated on on either side of the catwalk, VIP style as part of this high fashion event. The performance is both local and global, personal and political and will zoom out to explore the impact of fast fashion and the dynamics of place and power.

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