Zish Alexander, Raised Lens, 2018, Screenprint on canvas board, spruce poles, Variable
Zish Alexander’s work explores the space between the Individual and the Collective.
Exploring notions of Icon, Identity, Ritual and Relation, relating to the physical knowledge of images. While his absence of formal art training informs his often self-referential approach; where capitalist tools are reclaimed as artistic instruments to create uncanny works that subvert the familiar in a multitude of media including sculpture, moving image, print, photography and installation.
‘Raised Lens’ focuses on a shared gesture that captures and reflects the growing digitisation of protest culture. The images captured by the artist at various UK protests from 2017 invite the audience to meditate on intention and the historical impact of the lens. An object with the power to document and broadcast struggles against oppressive systems, giving life to social movements and propelling them beyond their local limitations.
David Bannister, Boris, 2018, Acrylic on board, 445 x 395cm
David Bannister is an artist living and working on the Welsh border. His work is quite diverse from portraits to abstracts to landscapes. Although his work has mainly centred around the landscape genre and in exploring mood and atmosphere, more recently he has been working with portraiture.
David Bannister aims in this work to show who they are as people in a historical or cultural context. His use of shortened names such as "Boris" and "May" is intended to strip them of any societal rank and stress that they are just like us.
In David Bannister's words:
"[The paintings] are a response to my own investigations into the public role, private affiliations and private interests of these figures. I wanted to provoke the questions: Who is this? What does he or she do? What is their history? What, or who are they affiliated with? Where do their real allegiances lie? To understand what is going on in the world we have to penetrate deep beyond the public face to unmask those that many so unwittingly believe, respect and trust."
Jan Bowman, Europa and the Octopus, 2017, Digital print, 42cm x 29.7cm
Jan Bowman is an architect-trained artist, author and illustrator. Originally from Scotland via Canada, she now lives in London.
She's inspired by humanity, democracy, gardening, cities, ancient Greek vase paintings, and songs about 21st-century angst.
In Jan Bowman's words, "Octopuses and spiders are a common metaphor for the EU in many parts of Europe" and in "Europe and the Octopus" Bowman shows Europe struggling against the EU. This artwork was created in response to the 2016 UK referendum result and was first exhibited at the Crypt Gallery in London in 2019 as part of the Take Back Control exhibition.
Jason de Caires-Taylor, The Pride of Brexit, 2019, Polyester resin iron patina (or polished cement or cast iron), 2.5m x 80cm
Jason deCaires Taylor is a sculptor, environmentalist and professional underwater photographer. Born in 1974, Taylor graduated from the London Institute of Arts in 1998 with a BA Honours in Sculpture.
His permanent site-specific works span several continents and predominately explore submerged and tidal marine environments. His multi-disciplinarily sculptural works explore modern themes of conservation and environmental activism; Over the past 10 years Taylor has created several large-scale underwater “Museums” and “Sculpture Parks”, with collections of over 850 life-size public works.
The Pride of Brexit is an a sculptural work by Jason de Caires-Taylor that specifically tackles to crisis of Brexit, employing layers of symbolism and unplanned additions such as graffiti that captured the core tensions in the UK at that time.
Michael Craig-Martin, Artists For In (Britain Stronger in Europe) Campaign Poster, 2016, Poster, A4
Michael Craig-Martin is a Dublin born artist who grew up in the United States. He has lived in the UK since 1966 and has since become one of the UK's most influential artists.
This poster work was produced for the "Artists For In" campaign to encourage people to vote for Remain in the EU referendum in 2016. Michael Craig-Martin has also written a statement about his position on Brexit which you can read on his website.
Jeremy Deller, Putin's Happy, 2019, Single channel film, 42mins, Courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute
Jeremy Deller is a Turner-prize winning, British video and installation artist.
Led By Donkeys, A Message to Europe, 2020, Video projection, Variable
Led By Donkeys are a UK-based guerrilla group of four people disillusioned by government lies and keen to bring about public awareness through their nationwide billboard campaigns, films and other actions.
"A Message to Europe" was a poignant film projected by Led By Donkeys onto the White Cliffs of Dover on the 31st of January 2020 as the UK's departure from the EU approached.
Gil Mualem Doron, The New Union Flag, 2016, Flag printed on silk, 200 x 300cm
Gil Mualem-Doron (1970 UK/Israel) is an award-wining socially and politically engaged artist working in various media; primarily photography, digital art, installation and performance using participatory practices. His work investigates issues such as urban history, social justice, identity, transcultural aesthetics, migrations and displacement.
His work has been exhibited extensively in the UK and abroad including Tate Modern, the Turner Contemporary, Liverpool Museum, People’s History Museum, Turner Contemporary, Rich Mix London, ONCA (Brighton) Haifa Museum of Art (Israel), East66 – Centre for Urban Research (Amsterdam), and Detroit – Centre for Urban Ecology.
The New Union Flag (NUF) re-imagines the Union Jack and celebrates the communities that have contributed to the UK’s cultural legacy. Re-created with fabric designs from all over the world, the New Union Flag transforms the traditional Union Jack from an archetype of uniformity into a dynamic and celebrational on-going performance of diversity. Whilst this flag started as a reflection on the UK’s colonial legacy its design is ever-changing to reflect the ongoing changes of the makeup of this nation.
Rita Duffy, Advent of the Inevitable (Raft Project), 2019, Digital print on aluminium, 182cm x 122cm , Courtesy of the Artist
Rita Duffy is a Belfast-born artist whose work is often autobiographical; exploring Irish identity, politics and history.
Rita Duffy’s photomontage is a response by the artist to Brexit and the ongoing ‘Border Poll’ discussion. A border poll is the term for a referendum on Irish reunification which, in the context of Brexit, has intensified. In the United Kingdom’s Brexit Referendum (2016), 55.8% of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union, despite 52% of the UK, as a whole, voting to leave.
In working with young men from either side of the North/South Irish Border, Rita Duffy’s image is a re-interpretation of Théodore Géricault’s (1791-1824) iconic painting The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819), which depicted the 15 survivors from the shipwrecked French frigate Méduse.
Punctuated by tattered remnants of sectarian flags, Duffy’s survivors or ‘Border Dwellers’, are surrounded by the detritus of symbolic nationalism and appear shattered and in utter despair. Drawing parallels with the current international refugee and economic migrant crisis, and referencing historical migration in Ireland, the artist depicts a man pointing to a ship on the horizon, perhaps as the artist has offered: ‘a future beyond prejudice and nationalist obsession’?
However, for Rita Duffy, the future of Border living is symbolised by an infamous ship that was built in Belfast at the beginning of the twentieth century… RMS Titanic.
Stephane Graff, Prime Time II (Cameron), 2016, Oil on canvas, 32 x 28cm
Stephane Graff (b. 1965) is a Franco-British artist based in London. His practice is characterised by the use of analogue photographic techniques and photorealistic paintings.
Having been influenced by the psychoanalytical traditions of Freud and Jung, and scientific methods, Graff, regularly addresses in his work themes of identity, concealment, memory and a secular conception of the sacred. In-depth research led Graff to develop Alter Egos such as the scientist ‘Professore’ and the ethno-botanist Dr Albert Frique. His most extensive bodies of work are the ‘Black Box’ paintings, the ‘Constrictions’ photographic series, and the ‘Mille-Feuille’ paintings, which are made on numerous strips of wood, combining the disciplines of painting and sculpture. Graff has exhibited internationally. Selected exhibitions include: Galleria Mucciaccia, Rome (2018); Almine Rech Gallery, in London (2016); The Musée d’Art Modern et Contemporain in Nice, France (2013); the Ercel Foundation in Turin, Italy (2010); the Operating Room, Amerikan Hastanesi, Istanbul (2010); the Musee de Marrakech, Morocco (2004); and the Museum of Mankind in London (1991).
Prime Time by artist Stephane Graff was painting in 2016 and is part of the artist’s so-called Glitch series of paintings.
This animated portrait of David Cameron appears as a tightly cropped head study caught in a freeze-frame with motion blur.
The artist explains:
"On the eave of the Brexit vote, David Cameron gave an interview on television. Ironically, that evening, there was a huge electrical storm throughout London and the lightening was causing television interference. The TV picture was partly freezing and pixels were flashing on the screen, as the image of Cameron flickered in and out of focus. His fully saturated rosy complexion mutated into shifting slabs of vibrant and fuzzy flesh. Without delay, I began to photograph the television screen, in an effort to capture the glitches. The resulting photos were later used as reference for my portrait of Cameron.”
In hindsight, Cameron’s decision to lead the country to vote on Brexit turned out to be one of the greatest political glitches of the 21st century, which immediately triggered the downfall of his premiership.
Lara Hoad, Enough Rope (To Hang Yourself), 2019, Steel and Rope, 33ft x 33ft x 33ft
Lara Hoad is a British/American Artist, Architect, Educator and Activist. A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art her projects are typically concerned with progressive aspects of sustainability, social change, branding and contemporary culture.
Lara is principal architect at Lara Hoad Architecture Design and holds teaching positions at Woodbury University’s School of Architecture and OTIS College of Art and Design, both in Los Angeles.
Lara is a long-time environmental activist, a Climate Reality leader and a crew member and ambassador for eXXpedition, the all-women sailing voyages exploring the impact of toxins and plastic pollution in our oceans.
One of several 10 ft x 10 ft steel cubed international pavilions being shown at the 2019 Bombay Beach Biennale, the British Pavilion was created to coincide with Britain’s exit from the EU (Brexit). “Enough Rope (To Hang Yourself)” is an interpretation of the British flag, known as the Union Jack. Seen as the flag from just one viewpoint, it starts to break down and "deconstruct" as one moves around it. The installation is composed of 58 lines of shipping line (rope), a nod to the British Empire’s former naval dominance, as well as an ironic reference to each of the 58 British Territories at the time of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition; its official objective being "to stimulate trade, strengthen bonds that bind mother Country to her Sister States and Daughters, to bring into closer contact one with each other, to enable all who owe allegiance to the British flag to meet on common ground and learn to know each other". Revealed at the aptly named 2019 Bombay Beach Biennale located on the edge of California’s post-apocalyptic Salton Sea, the installation is intended to hint at the potential outcome of a divided nation in crisis.
Michal Iwanowski, Go Home, Polish, 2018, Series of photographs, 75 x 50cm & 120 x 80cm
Michal Iwanowski was born in Poland and has for some years lived in Cardiff, Wales where he graduated with an MFA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport. His work combines elements of the documentary tradition with a conceptual approach. In his deeply personal projects, Michal often sets his protagonists against nature and explores the relationship between landscape and memory; marking the silent passing of otherwise insignificant individuals and histories. In 2009, he won the Magenta Foundation Emerging Photographers award.
Statement by Michal Iwanowski
In 2008, I came across a small graffiti in my neighbourhood in Cardiff, and it spelt Go home Polish. I dwelt on it for a while, unsure whether I really should be going anywhere or whether I already was home.
In 2016, with the Brexit referendum breaking Britain in half, and the rising wave of nationalism sweeping across Europe, the slogan took on an even darker tone, and I felt compelled to respond to it. Literally.
In April 2018, I set off on an 1900 km journey, on foot, between my two homes - Wales and Poland - with a British passport in one hand, and a Polish one in the other. I drew a straight line on the map, got a pair of good hiking shoes, and walked out of my Cardiff flat, facing east: Wales. England. France. Belgium. Holland. Germany. Czech Republic. Poland. My goal was to ask people about home, in a journey that would take 105 days to complete.
Although I anticipated confrontation, polemics, and awkwardness, the antagonism never really came. On the contrary. People responded to the question in a deeply personal way: human to human, rather than citizen to foreigner. Most put their hand on their chest to show me where home was. Many wanted to tag along. Few mentioned their nationality. Only one chased me away.
As the journey progressed, the Go home Polish’ slogan became irrelevant. However, I decided to keep it as a title, and a symbolic axis on which this project is set. This is to challenge the language that dehumanises the other. This is to object to generalisation. This is to look at the geopolitical agenda from the perspective of each individual.
And where is home? The answer is elusive and complex, a riddle that transcends time and administration. But I have found it, north of Olpe in Germany:
The village Ursula used to live in disappeared under the surface of the water when the dam was built. A whole village turned into Atlantis. Folks relocated and left their homes behind. She was a little girl.Some sixty years later, her children bring Ursula back to that place, to the shore of the lake that swallowed her home. She is in her 70’s, but remembers exactly where the house is - her finger like the magnetic needle of a compass, trembling gently and pointing. There! The children take to the water and swim to that spot. They float above the ghost house they can neither see nor enter, connecting to an unattainable place, feeling its pulse within their own being. And although they feel it profoundly, they know it cannot be reached or contained.
This is hiraeth. This is heimat. This is home.
Ben Jakober & Yannick Vu, Expect Nothing, 2016, Granite, 54h x 26w x 20d cm
Ben Jakober (Vienna, Austria, 1930) and Yannick Vu (Monfort L’amaury, France, 1942) a married couple, working together since they were invited to participate together at the 1993 Biennale de Venezia directed by Achille Bonito Oliva.
They previously and subsequently also participated in the Sao Paolo, Valencia Biennales and have shown widely in galleries and museums and have installed works in public places world wide. In later years they have concentrated in founding and maintaining msbb - a museum on the island of Mallorca – not to showpiece their own work but on the contrary striving to bring a very diverse group of artists to face art and artefacts from many cultures. They are however still involved in a number of commissions for large-scale site specific interventions.
Statement from the artists:
"Expect nothing does not mean don’t expect anything. Brexit was an unexpected decision taken by a slim majority of votes for the wrong reasons. After 4 years of dithering, at the time of writing the outcome is still not clear. Great Britain has gone through many trials and tribulations over time and has always managed to muddle through and come out stronger. However, the challenges are now enormous especially with the simultaneous pandemic and politicians not always up to the task. The public has become accustomed to obtain many perfectly justified freebies – health care insurance, employment benefits, pension schemes, relatively high salaries and redundancy pay-outs. Will the state be able to maintain these advantages? Will manufacturing be able to compete in world markets and continue to receive generous subventions, and will commerce be able to adapt to the new conditions? Will London continue to be a financial hub and pay huge bonuses to a happy few? Will the union of the 4 parts of the United Kingdom bear the strain of the metamorphosis?
Henry Jones, Lurkers, 2019, Watercolour, 75 x 55cm
Working predominantly in watercolour, Henry Jones' work draws on the mundane and the newsworthy of normal life.
He strives, with varying success, for spontaneity, which in turn creates confidence from hours spent working with the medium. Whenever a scene appeals to him, he subconsciously begin to work out how he can paint it.
Statement from the artist:
"“Lurkers” was painted in response to several news reports of migrants on the railway tracks at at Calais. The nocturnal movement presented some dramatic imagery and an ideal subject for watercolour with the figures reduced to neutral staffage ignoring the red stop light, desperate to find paradise, but more likely to find disappointment."
Anish Kapoor, A Brexit, A Broxit, We All Fall Down, 2019, © Anish Kapoor. All rights reserved, DACS, 2020
Anish Kapoor is a Turner prize winning, contemporary British-Indian artist mainly working with large-
Created for the Guardian, Anish Kapoor's Brexit artwork titled, "A Brexit, A Broxit, We All Fall Down" is a work that the artist hopes will require no commentary to explain. Here, Brexit may be seen as a painful, open wound that has torn down the centre of the country and to which we may all fall into as the the work's title suggests. Kapoor was a vocal opponent to Brexit and has compared it to a form a "self-harm" - an act and position which this artwork seems to clearly, visually articulate.
Keep It Complex, Potatoes are Immigrants, 2017, Rhisograph, A2
Keep it complex developed out of EU-UK.info, an artist-run Remain campaign during the UK’s EU referendum in 2016.
Statement from Keep It Complex:
"Keep It Complex is a collaborative and evolving organisation which confronts political issues through ideas and action. It’s about using art to have conversations with people you don’t usually talk to. It’s about not giving in to apathy and fear.
We work collaboratively to run events, curate workshops, facilitate discussions and create campaign materials. Past activities across several strands of activity, and are documented on this website.
Keep It Complex is about making clear what we want, without simplifying discussion: an anti-rascist, peaceful, caring, angry, anti-austerity, DIY, transnational, struggling, messy, family-friendly, queer, inclusive, non-oppressive, intergenerational, generous, diverse society."
"Potatoes are Immigrants" was part of Keep it Complex's artist-run Remain campaign during the UK’s EU referendum in 2016.
Richard Littler, The Festival of Brexit Britain, 2018, Print on 250gsm paper, 50 x 70cm
Richard Littler is a writer, graphic artist and the creator of Scarfolk.
"The Festival of Brexit Britain" poster was inspired by the poster created by Abram Games for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Hynek Martinec, Brexit II (Melting Hip), 2020, Oil on canvas, 60cm x 60cm
Hynek Martinec (born Broumov, Czech Republic, 1980) lives and works in London and has exhibited extensively internationally. Martinec's paintings, drawings and sculptures have an ongoing engagement with art history, developing visual connections between diverse historical moments.
His works explore ideas about time, history, reality and spirituality, often appropriating imagery from vintage photographs and the Old Masters. He was included in the BP Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2007, 2009 and 2013, winning the Young Artist award in 2007. Martinec’s work is in private and public collections internationally including the National Gallery, Prague and the British Museum, London.
"Brexit II" is a painting that offers a symbolic interpretation of Brexit. The fake hip of melting foam represents the United Kingdom, and the British Isles in the dark ocean. The falling bitten apple is a reference to immigrants living in the UK who in the Hynek Martinec's view, both enrich the UK's culture and strengthen the UK's economy. The apple also symbolises dialogue and respect between different groups in society. For the artist, being open and welcoming gives a country's culture greater strength in the world and by deciding to leave the EU, Martinec believes that the UK risks isolation and risks turning into a melting hip without any healthy apples. Martinec takes the view that the EU referendum result suggests that British culture and the UK economy is in decline. However, the artist seems hopeful, stating, "The mood of the country has changed but, I believe we can all learn from this and it could make us stronger."
Stefana McClure, Protest Stones (Brexit), 2016, Paper-wrapped stones, 6 x 11 x 8cm
Stefana McClure was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, in 1959, Stefana McClure lives and works in New York.
She received her BA in sculpture from Hornsey College of Art, London (1980 – 1984) and continued her studies in papermaking at Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan (1993 – 1995). Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Josée Bienvenu Gallery, New York (2015, 2018); Bartha Contemporary, London (2013, 2017); Sleeper and Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2015). Her work has been shown in many museum exhibitions and is included in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany.
Using words as her forceful tool of expression, Stefana McClure (b. 1959, Northern Ireland) adapts a poetic yet severe vocabulary to process her childhood experience in Northen Ireland as well as the more recent adverse reactions around the Brexit debates. In Protest Stones (Brexit), actual protest stones picked up from the conflict-ridden streets were wrapped with newspaper articles on the Brexit/border issue that McClure particularly disliked, and then thrown repeatedly against her studio wall. The violence exuded and the scars they carry for McClure signify the tragic decay of civil society.
Quiet British Accent, Bugger Brexit, 2016, Posters, badges, banners.etc, Dimensions variable
QUIET BRITISH ACCENT is Sharon Gale and Jason Gale, an artist duo. The couple's work often touches on the subjects of change and value using pennies and text. Trained at Technical Colleges in Graphic Design and Fashion & Textiles, they began working together as QbA in 2011. Their work often features craft techniques and has attracted the attention of Time Out, The Guardian & Cool Hunting.
QbA reappropriated a reported quote from George V for current times, with an image of a contemporaneous penny offering some 'quiet balanced advice' in comic-style lettering. The poster was imagined as an advert for an as-yet-unmade British theatre farce.
Placards were taken to the People's Vote march in Oct 2018 and the Put it to the People march in March 2019 where they proved popular with people such as Jarvis Cocker. Some also found their way onto walls about town where they became part of the Brexit conversation over the 'Brexit years’.
Simon Roberts, The Brexit Lexicon, 2018, Single channel film, 78mins, Courtesy of the artist and Flowers Gallery
Simon Roberts (b.1974) is a British artist-photographer whose work deals with our relationship to landscape and notions of identity and belonging.
He has published and exhibited widely and his photographs reside in major public and private collections, including the George Eastman House, Deutsche Börse Art Collection and V&A Collection. In 2010 he was commissioned as the official British Election Artist by the House of Commons Works of Art Committee to produce a record of the General Election on behalf of the UK Parliamentary Art Collection; and in 2013 was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
The Brexit Lexicon is a single channel video and projection work (c. 80 minutes) creating a compendium of the most common terms that have shaped the discussions of Brexit in both politics and the media during Britain’s exit from the Europe Union.
The video was shot in a real news studio, with a professional news reader, yet the event is orchestrated as a stage-set in order to question the function of mass media, and the relationship between politics, media and truth.
To make the lexicon, Roberts undertook a type of ‘fieldwork’, collating newsprint from British media organisations, newspapers, campaign websites, Facebook pages and official documents issued by the British government and the EU.
The Brexshit Machine is an LED artwork based on text extracted from The Brexit Lexicon. The work was created to mark 31 January 2020, the day that the UK’s membership of the European Union ended and the start of the “transition period”.
The Brexit process dominated Britain’s news agenda between 2016 and 2020, and one notable language trend during this period has been the creation of new terms using the letters ‘Brex-’ as a prefix. Notable examples include the word ‘Brexiety’ (the feeling of unease over Britain’s uncertain political future), ‘Brextremist’ (someone with extreme views about Brexit), and ‘Brexodus’ (mass emigration as a result of Brexit). The Brexshit Machine scrolls through a list of these new words in a continuous loop.
Martin Rowson, EU Britannia, 2016, Cartoon
Martin Rowson (b.1959) is a British editorial cartoonist and writer whose political satire pieces appear regularly in UK newspapers.
This bold and punchy cartoon by Martin Rowson was originally published in July 2017 on Kevin Maguire's column for the Daily Mirror. It illustrated an article proclaiming the "Patriotic case for remaining in the EU" and examined possible ways that the UK might be able to stay in the EU. In the piece, Maguire stated that "quitting the EU is foolish and leaving isn’t inevitable" and he also raised the possibility of a second referendum.
John Springs, Mustn't Grumble, Oil on canvas, 155 x 236cm
John Springs (b.1962) is a British painter and satirical cartoonist whose caricatures and cartoons have been published in newspapers internationally.
"Mustn't Grumble" is part of a collection of works titled "Political Unrest: Bracing for Brexit" which the artist made in 2017. For Springs, "The act of satire is in fact a political event in itself, a picture, like words, can do the lying." and this painting, is "satirizing the satirists and playing them at their own game and all the things they find irresistible."
Joe Sweeney, +44 leave a Message for Europe, 2019, Steel, glass, Internal light, 230 x 95 x 95cm
Joe Sweeney works with a visual language created through British idiosyncrasies, everyday references and the banal, commenting on our fast changing times by elevating the throw away. Through quick observation, the artist encourages a pause for thought on the daily interactions that we don’t always pay attention to. Playing with Britain’s passion for nostalgia, he often creates morbid but humorous work through sculpture, print and installation.
Sweeney’s project ‘+44 leave a Message for Europe’ was centred around live web cam stream of a sculpture of a telephone box installed on Dungeness beach, Kent. The public were invited to call the sculpture online, no matter what their opinion, and leave their voice messages for Europe during the 28 day lead up to Britain's original departure date from the EU (29th March 2019). The project was extended into April and the full archive of voice messages is available to listen to at Leaveamessage4europe.com. The sound archive and live stream footage has been collated by Sweeney to form a time based media work titled "28 Days in March."
Eliza Tamo, Murmur, 2020, Inject print on vintage (WW2 period) postcards, 14 x 9cm
Eliza Tamo (b.1980) is a London based artist working predominantly with photography, collage and text. Her work draws on history, our sense of place, power, memory, chance and the mundane.
She holds an MA in Photography from the London College of Communication. Her work has been exhibited amongst others at the T3 Photo Festival Tokyo, Athens Photo and The Photographers’ Gallery in London. She is also known as Elisavet Tamouridou.
Wolfgang Tillmans, Anti-Brexit Campaign, 2016, Posters, Variable
Born in 1968 in Remscheid, Germany, Wolfgang Tillmans is a world-renowned artist and photographer. He was the first photographer and first non-British artist to win the Turner Prize, a prestigious award run by the Tate in London.
Statement by Wolfgang Tillmans from 26 May 2016
The reasons why I felt compelled to get involved in the UK-EU referendum are personal – my lifelong involvement with the UK, my love for the UK and its culture, music and people, my career’s groundedness in Britain and the always warm welcome I felt here as a German. I see myself as a product of the European post-war history of reconciliation, peace and exchange. However, the more pressing reason why I morphed in recent months from an inherently political, to an overtly political person, lies in my observation of the larger geopolitical situation and an understanding of Western cultures, as sleepwalkers into the abyss.
The term “Sleepwalkers” comes from the title of the book by Christopher Clark which describes Europe in 1914, when different societies ended up in a world war, which none of them wanted. Today, I see the Western world sleepwalking towards the demolition of the very institutions of democracy, negotiation and moderation that allow us to live the lives we are living.
In the US we are currently observing a rage which is threatening to wash away great American values, which anchor the world as we know it. These people claim to make America great again, but they embody the opposite. In the East of Europe, we see a surge in nationalist fervour, which wants to sweep away freedoms won only some twenty-five years ago. In western Europe and Britain, we see a wave of discontent with the outcome of globalisation, which turns its anger from the real perpetrators, say for example the tax-evading billionaires, to the weakest in our societies: refugees from terror and war.
The EU is a scapegoat in the midst of all this. For decades press and politicians have loaded blame on it, when in fact it does its best to deal with the fallout of the tectonic shifts in world politics. The EU takes upon itself the task to negotiate the affairs of twenty-eight member states. This can never be an easy task. I admire that this even works so well. We can exchange goods without having to probe product safety each and every time between the twenty-eight countries. Brussels bureaucracy deals with that, and actually quite efficiently. People can move and work in whichever EU country they like. In fact, 1.5 million Brits enjoy this right just now, and due to deregulation of air travel millions enjoy cheap air travel to Europe.
We have in the last decades become a European family, with much less dividing us than connecting us. EU laws, making up only ten per cent of laws made in the UK, enshrined rights like four weeks’ paid holiday, health and safety and much more. The EU enforces standards that protect the environment. Water pollution doesn’t respect borders, and here especially Brits benefit from rules that span the continent. There are frustrations with the very nature of compromise and shared decision-making.
The EU is well aware of its shortcomings and David Cameron has secured a clause for the UK to not partake in a move towards a European States. This is no longer on the cards. There is no longer a danger of giving up British sovereignty. I feel that the forces driving towards the UK leaving the EU are disregarding a most crucial point – the values the EU stands for are fragile in this world of extremism. The anti-democratic forces in eastern Europe, the Islamist forces around the Mediterranean, the big business interests in North America, are all poised to wash away the EU’s laws of moderation.
The EU protects your rights against these enemies of freedom. To leave the EU now, in these dangerous political times, is not patriotic, it’s simply foolish and it would send the wrong message to the enemies of European values. The EU is not perfect and it never was designed to be that way. The very nature of it being a negotiating chamber of twenty-eight nations is the key to its success. It is not in the security interests of the UK to weaken the EU at this point in time. Whatever your feelings towards the EU, be aware that voting for Brexit has catastrophic repercussions for the whole of Europe and the world.
Koen Vanmechelen, Mechelse Redcap – 3rd Generation Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, 2020, Photograph, 20.5 x 16.23 cm
Koen Vanmechelen (Belgium, 1965) is an acclaimed artist whose artworks bring together nature, science, and direct actions that contribute to the socio-economic and ecological sustainability of a community. Key themes are biocultural diversity, fertility and the perpetuum movement for balance.
In 2010, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hasselt and was awarded with the Golden Nica Hybrid Art (Linz, 2013). Worldwide, over 80 solo exhibitions have taken place and his work has been included in over 220 group shows.
Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) began twenty years ago as a disruptive artistic enquiry, with the bird used by the artist as a metaphor for humanity as it has spread and shaped itself across the globe.
With the CCP, Vanmechelen set out to disrupt the increasingly mono-cultural and restrictive processes, through crossing. The Adam and Eve of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project were the Belgian Mechelse Koekoek and the French Poulet de Bresse, crossed on the border between Belgium and France as part of an art exhibition curated by Jan Hoet. Dozens of offspring were born from the crossing, including a black cockerel.
In the year 2000, this 'work of art' was paired with the genetically impoverished and almost extinct English Redcap. Due to intense inbreeding aimed at even greater egg production and even more meat for consumption, the Redcap breed had become almost infertile. Koen Vanmechelen had to do quite a bit of research in order to find a few specimens in Northampton. He crossed the Channel and bought 3 hens.
Against all odds, these Engels Redcaps successfully crossed with Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken in the Lisson Gallery in London, one of the most influential contemporary art galleries in the world. A new fertile generation hatched in the gallery: the Mechelse Redcap. For Vanmechelen this was obvious proof of the importance of diversity and of mixing, whether it is of race, identity or discipline.
Anna 2020, Koen Vanmechelen’s long-running Cosmopolitan Chicken Project has resulted in a domesticated chicken strain (a.k.a. living art) with unprecedented genetic diversity. Each successive generation of the CCP has proven to be more resilient, longer living, less susceptible to disease, and less aggressive than the previous one.
In 2000, The Times - predictively - sees the Mechelse Redcap as an improved version of the European Union and puts a picture of it on their cover.
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