Jennifer Little is renowned for her informative and charismatic exhibition tours in British Sign Language. Join her as she explores the Portico Library’s exhibition Sit Down & Get Out! The trouble with “polite society”, providing greater depth and context to this hotly debated topic.
Our society now is a product of the ideologies that have come before it. Sit down & Get Out! Interrogates modern culture and predominate attitudes from 1806, the year the portico was established. The often oppressive early 19th Century ideas can be linked to factors impacting our cultural wellbeing today, or give some context as to where some of the more conservative sides of British society have come from.
Now, we look at how politeness can be used by those in the public eye such as political leaders and celebrities. It isn’t uncommon for the argument of manners and diplomacy to be used as the cover for defending privileges, while at the same time others will speak out knowing they offend certain groups claiming the agency to do so being part of their right to free speech.
In the Portico itself there is a phrase painted on the largest bookshelf, in 19th Century gold lettering. It reads: “POLITE LITERATURE”, reminding us of the role that ‘politeness’ played in the era in which the Portico was founded.
an exhibition that looks for the true face of an outwardly ‘polite’ society
Through research and artistic responses, fifteen artists and young people from the mental health charity 42nd Street have been unpicking the nuances of this debate. They place Twitter storms and Billie Eilish side by side with 18th Century Prints by satirist William Hogarth, in an exhibition that looks for the true face of an outwardly ‘polite’ society and the darker forces driving public behavior.