The Kibbo Kift Kindred (no connection to the KKK) were a British outdoorsy social movement set up in 1920 as a non-militaristic, co-educational alternative to the Boy Scouts. It was pretty weird – they hoped that nature play would eventually lead to world peace – and it’s referenced by London-born Olivia Plender as part of her new solo show in photographic ink drawings that depict the brethren waving flags in the countryside in full regalia. She’s also taken a look at the Women’s Social and Political Union and other left-leaning protest groups.
Alongside these drawings, hanging in the gallery space are two floor-to-ceiling silken curtains of a disquieting nicotine-fingertip hue. They bring a muted, funeral-parlour feel to the otherwise sparsely filled converted industrial space. On one wall is a tapestry of Britannia, the feminine embodiment of Great Britain, and in the middle of the room is a detailed architectural model of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, while a small sculpture of a duck house, called ‘Stockholm Duck House: A Proposed Monument to British Parliamentary Corruption, Circa 2009’, is one of the few pieces related to more contemporary events.
Plender is a fine multi-disciplinarian: she’s done everything from recreating the Google offices to publishing a comic strip called ‘The Masterpiece’. She’s also clearly an avid social historian. And while her idiosyncratic approach to accessing the past doesn’t always make obvious the exhibition’s themes – national identity, global finance, protest – it’s all very fascinating when you dig a little deeper. Top tip: a copy of the artist’s new monograph, ‘Rise Early Be Industrial’, featuring some of the work on show as well as her other output, is available to leaf through in the gallery. It’s a great primer and helps flesh out the details of Plender’s manifold world.