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May 31

WE THE PEOPLE...

By Julia Jarvis-Knell

In light of some of the events we’ve lived through recently it’s fair to say that it’s hard to find a framework to understand the senseless violence that’s committed in our world or why the people running your country make the political decisions they do. Whilst most of us might post an outraged comment on social media or even take to the streets to protest, it’s reassuring to know that there’s other people out there who can creatively express some of our shared views of anger, frustration, hopes for a better future.

Art is often criticised for being the preserve of the rich or the ‘cultured’ classes and art galleries their ivory towers, exclusive, intimidating spaces that have little interest in appealing to broad audiences, that’s why seeing Jeremy Deller’s work (below) fly postered around the city over the last week made me smile. It’s a simple protest but effective one, calling out the contradictions in Theresa May’s words in black and white.

Behind the poster is the Flying Leaps Project who explain that 'what we see and don't see in the urban environment 'is an index of political, economic and civic power.’ It aims to bring to the street new voices to the “visual conversations” that echo around our cities’ and for these voices to act as ‘a spur to consider the thinking and sensibilities behind their production’.

With governments and global corporations being able to deliver ever more targeted and sophisticated messages about how we should live our lives and what we should consume, a diversity of messages is essential and the humble poster a democratic, persuasive tool.

But do these artist’s see their work, as attack on multinational corporations and capitalism? Another Flying leaps artist, Robert Montgomery said last year to Dazed Digital:

‘I’m not sure if my work could be an effective attack against that. I’m not sure how helpful I can be – I think Jeremy Corbyn running for the Labour leadership is probably of much more practical political use. But I think if you see economic and social injustice and ecological danger in your time, it’s hard not to make art about that. I think it’s almost irresponsible to not make that at least a part of the art you make. Artists can do our bit for a more enlightened future, and just try our hardest like everyone else.’

Cat Phillipps and Peter Kennard are also Flying Leap artists but have taken their work back into the gallery context. Their exhibition MAY NOT opens days before the UK election and they describe it as, ‘a montage of our attempt to get a grip, take the temperature, get a handle on the real, measure the trauma. It’s a partial, fragmented and insecure archive of how things are looking to us.’

They end, ‘when the freedom of speech is curtailed, another kind of protest begins.’ It makes you think. There’s plenty of places in the world that have it worse than the UK and US, for example, but what happens when your current respective governments make a U-turn on social care, education and climate change? Oh shit.

Bob & Roberta Smith (who are not a couple or siblings but a bloke by the name of Patrick Brill) is another artist who’s used his art to make plain inequalities and injustices. 

 


From protesting the obliteration of art education to the need to vote, he’s a man of manifestos and public letters, who’s making art in pursuit of a more enlightened and fulfilling future for all…

If it were me, I’d vote, but I’m not you. You choose. What will you do?

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