The FT Trilogy
Spaffed (2020) kennardphillipps
Spaffed (2020), the latest flyingleaps poster by political art duo kennardphillipps, features the current No. 10 Evil-Clown-in-Residence Boris Johnson.
The original print and hand-crafted portrait on American and British Stocks pages of the Financial Times drew a comment along the lines of ‘They’ve blacked him up, that’s racist!’ Erm, no. They haven’t. And it isn’t. Though Johnson’s noxious, inflammatory language is.
In Spaffed we see the PM wearing what’s known as the ‘Auguste’ clown face. In traditional clown hierarchy this posits him as a simpleton, somewhere between the ‘Boss’ and the ‘Tramp’ clowns: twixt SPAD Cummings and the new Chancellor then?
The title of the work refers, of course, to Johnson’s use of the word in his criticism of money spent on historic child abuse investigations. The collapse of a case involving high profile politicians notwithstanding, for survivors of abuse the past is never buried. And, again, for the current PM to have used such a crass, inappropriate word in this context betrays a savage disregard on his part. It also talks about the depth to which political discourse has sunk under his berserker buffoon influence. Who was the intended ‘audience’ for this remark? Who was it supposed to chime with?
Spaffed completes a trilogy of kennardphillipps’ Brexit PMs. The flyingleaps project kicked off with their Study for a Head 7 (2016). At one reading this was David Cameron rendered again in stark black and white on the FT’s salmon-pink pages but with a raw, critical strip torn off. Profit (2017) came next with PM Theresa May’s face minus her eyes. A creepy, myopically harping visage who, it turned out, really didn’t have a clue. Now that Spaffed has joined the throng a trio of cocky incompetence is complete.
Leap Year 1968 (2019) Robert Davidson
It’s all here in black and white… A lean woman leaping over the folded form of a taut man: shared dynamism, force and strength jumps out at us from Robert Davidson’s photograph. Purveyors of ‘fashion, music and hippie culture’ London Co. ‘Osiris Visions’ popped the words ‘Leap Year’ in pink above her shoulders when they published this as a poster in 1968. Back then it was also overprinted, co-opted by occupying students to muster direct action, protest against an LSE director thought to be complicit in Rhodesia’s racist regime. More than half a century later, in leap year 2020 it still packs a radical punch.
In an otherwise comprehensive and erudite book ‘Posters’ – in contrast to the Atelier Populaire’s militant output – Bevis Hillier posited Davidson’s image as ‘decorative’, a ‘frivolous novelty’. Somehow a precursor to Athena’s arse scratching tennis player. It’s nothing of the kind. Leap Year 1968 (2020) for flyingleaps is braced with energy, optimism and a fervent, anti-establishment playfulness. And play, especially collaborative play, foments imagination, creativity. It conjures other realities and imagining alternative modes of being is the most political of acts. It affords opportunities to see the world and our place in it differently.
Leapfrogging the slew of mainstream media mischief and vainglorious right-wing politicking is not an option. Things look bleak but, as Gary Younge signed off his final Guardian column saying, “The propensity to despair is strong, but shouldn’t be indulged. Sing yourself up. Imagine a world in which you might thrive, for which there is no evidence. And then fight for it.” Stay true and never give up.
MADe in America
Ben Turnbull’s MADe In America (2019)
This is the latest superb, arresting and timely addition to the flyingleaps collection. His signature approach to collage being particularly suited to street display: they catch our attention from afar and up close amply reward sustained viewing.
So Turnbull’s work engages in a number of ways. First the bold and eye-catching portraiture wrought from rich swirling slicks and slabs of colour and tone. On closer inspection of MADe In America we see form dissolve into a wriggling mass of flesh, ears and eyes that make up this 45th ‘Kebab-Face in Chief’. Jokers and clowns colonise his shirt collar. Dark deeds appear in the cut of his suit and, of course, there’s a screaming skull in his tie knot… All created from the artist’s painstakingly researched and cleverly employed source material, namely comics.
But this isn’t straightforward collage, the medium contributes to and propels the message. A recent show American History X Volume III – Manifest Decimation saw Turnbull produce a bold critique of the historical and contemporary mistreatment of Native American Indians, these were gripping images but the fact that they were collaged from Western – Cowboy & Indian – Comics introduces further degrees of critical wit and complexity.
Likewise for Turnbull’s flyingleaps outing. A portrait of Trump flicking the finger perfectly captures the president’s petulant contempt, his ugly, windy arrogance. Then realising the work deploys clippings from the pages of the classic US satirical Mad Magazine adds a droll, pithy rebuttal of pretty much everything the current POTUS likes to think he stands for. He’s a joke but a darkly calamitous and extremely dangerous one.
Look out for Turnbull’s MADe In America on the streets of London, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Glasgow. And don’t miss out on this latest opportunity to continue to collect some of the best of contemporary art around.
Every age (has its own fascism) (2019)
Every age (has its own fascism) (2019)
This is Jeremy Deller’s second artists’ poster print for flyingleaps. It’s another excoriating critique of the self-serving, mealy-mouthed politics we’re currently being subjected to. The original Primo Levi quote continues… ‘There are many ways of reaching this point, and not just through the terror of police intimidation, but by denying and distorting information, by undermining systems of justice, by paralyzing the education system, and by spreading in a myriad subtle ways nostalgia for a world where order reigned.’
This is where we’re at right now. The UK mired in a chaos stoked by neoliberal myopia, right wing greed and xenophobia; a chaos massaged by mainstream media at the service of elites who couldn’t give a toss about creating a fairer society. Rather, wearing a velvet glove of deceitful, manipulative populism, an authoritarian and bigoted iron fist is being wielded at the centre of power and that, as we’ve seen, gives licence to narrowmindedness, boorish thuggery and worse across the country.
Deller’s works are always provocative, often witty, poetically entrancing and not afraid of offending, confronting the iniquities of power. But the Every age… poster chimes with another quality often present in his work. That is where a seemingly straightforward explication is also a heartrending fuck-have-we-really-come-to-this lament. Where profit beats people and livelihoods; where the country and the poorest are royally buggered to favour mainly the few; where systemic social neglect, political cruelty and individual hubris have moved from the wings to centre stage such that a warning against fascism needs to be plastered throughout the UK.
♥ ♦ ♠ ♣ Disunion Jack (2019)
Derek Mawudoku’s Disunion Jack (2019) quartet of posters for flyingleaps train a beady eye on Conflict, Money, Desire and Work in the 21st century. Clubs equals conflict, unrest; Diamonds wealth and power; Hearts is love, or a contemporary performance of it; Spades is work. Dynamic mark-making and pared down, adroit composition intensify his mode and theme: a bold, figurative critique of society’s ills.
Mawudoku’s imagery, in the words of renowned artist and educator Jon Thompson, ‘is always raw and uncompromising. Often heavy with psychological affect… fear… joy… pain… Sometimes it is childlike, giddy, funny, sometimes angry. Always it is intensely human.’ The four Disunion Jack (2019) works evince a powerful energy, directness and pin sharp, timely social critique.
Things aren’t easy. There are no glib answers. We’re all flawed. But we’re not dead in a ditch. Mawudoku’s drawings are witness, testament to troubled times, psychologically – fuck, Tory bias on the mainstream media is doing heads in – and visually, reflecting the ideas and emotions, idiocies and gut reactions that dog a nation coming apart at the seams. But there are progressive options. It’s time to change the dealer. We need some fresh cards.
Toxic People (2019) Magda Archer
Magda Archer’s ‘Toxic People’ (2019). Hot on the heels of her extremely popular Problems With Modern Life exhibition at Firstsite Gallery, Colchester another of the artist’s arch and appealing works gets the flyingleaps treatment.
The profound disquiet, wavering sense of purpose and erosion of constructive potential bought on by rampant consumerism, social media saturation and political toxicity is Archer’s stock-in-trade here.
Apart from More That Unites Us (2017) and Agitate In Memoriam (2018) which are currently limited to a run of 100, each edition is limited to 300.
ALL POSTERS ARE 30X20 INCHES.
All are numbered and signed on the back by the artist.
Posters are mailed 1st class – to be signed for – every Monday.
Dr. D aka Subvertiser
While the debate goes on as to whether flyposted and other oppositional art or visual activism has any direct effect in bringing about sociopolitical change, what it can do at its best is feed into the publics’ disposition.
Through strong imagery, cogent or quizzical text, humour, relatively speedy production and distribution, via its capacity to occupy anomalous spaces in the urban environment and through an imaginative, enacted engagement with matters of concern it can generate social media interest and help inform, even propel, opinion.
Dr. D’s targets include surveillance culture; the social effects of neoliberalism; commodification; mealy-mouthed and uncaring politicians; abuses of power in the media… Much more than bald sloganeering Dr. D’s imagery and text pieces often emerge, on reflection, as enigmatic meditations on twenty-first century existential angst.
Transgressing boundaries can reveal hidden rules. One could cite the precedents of the carnivalesque ‘telling truth to power’, vaudevillian comedy, Dada gestures in art but all of these, in a – it’s only a bunch of pucks/entertainers/artists – sense, operated in ‘sanctioned’ arenas. Dr. D’s contributions to the urban environment are rarely sanctioned and it’s this that contributes significantly to their traction and incisiveness.
The urban spectacle would have us believe that its over-riding character is, yes aspirational, but emphatically neutral and apolitical: that generally we’re going to be just fine if we carry on pretty much as we are. Dr. D’s pithy interventions, highlighting so many germane issues and employing such a variety of modes of address, repeatedly suggest otherwise.