I’m taking part in a group exhibition at Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green, London, from 6 to 16 September 2017, organised by Degrees of Freedom. The Republic of Brexitopia: Signals from an imagined future is an exhibition about an imaginary country of the near future, and asks an international group of artists (I’m playing for the home side) to examine the form it might take and the forces that might shape it.
My contribution is a War memorial – for after all, the Brexitopians (like the British) are obsessed with the (Second World) War, or rather a fictional version of it, half remembered from old films. The War is used as a lazy metaphor for everything from football to Brexit. Cuts are packaged as “austerity” and we are urged to “Keep Calm And Carry On”. So before any shots have been fired, we better have a war memorial. Three Polished granite panels turn out to be plastic and the names engraved upon them are not casualties, but the cast lists of British war films.
Each film is from a different decade and about a different service: 1940s: ‘In Which We Serve’ (Royal Navy); 1950s: ‘Dunkirk’ (British Army) and the 1960s ‘Battle of Britain’ (Royal Air Force).
You can download a pdf leaflet about my war memorial here and there’s a catalogue, leaflets, press release etc. to go with the exhibition here. If you’re in London while the exhibition’s on here’s where it is….
Sometimes I take photographs as visual notes about things I might later develop into written pieces or photoessays – or they might just stay as a reminder or record of something that I found interesting. This video is bit more than that, but it’s not a finished piece and might never be. Rather, it’s a bit of a ‘research’ video for my on-going thingy about memorials…
There has been an explosion (pun intended) in the number of memorials to the dead of WW1 and 2 and to recent victims of terrorism. There is a conscious attempt to link the two and portray the U.S. “War On Terror” (next stop North Korea) as being linked with the “just war” (WW2).
Any debate about the justification and motives behind this is shut down by accusations of “disrespecting ‘our’ troops” or being “unpatriotic”.
I went back to London where I had written about the memorials at Hyde Park Corner in ‘A Walk In The Park’ (2016) and observed how the public interacted with these newer memorials and compared it to how they interacted to the Remembrance service held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which I had attended last November.
I made this video a few days ago whilst on holiday in the USA. I filmed it on my phone in a Walmart store. All down the main aisle, American flags were suspended from the ceiling. These Stars and Stripes were blowing in the breeze from the air conditioning units, recalling the second verse of the country’s National Anthem (the one no one knows):
“What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?”
– ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, Words by Francis Scott Key.
Given where the country finds itself, it is fair to wonder what it is “half conceal(-ing), half disclose(-ing)”.
Doubtless you’ll get the symbolism of the music – ’Charmaine’ played by Mantovani – which I borrowed from “medication time” in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos’s Nest’.