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“Apathy is compliance, acceptance of the status quo, and that’s intolerable.”

They said it was a lack of information that was holding people back before the Internet, but there’s an apparent historical amnesia, or worse ignorance at the moment. It was only 60 years ago that segregation existed in the states and they were lynching black people. It was only 60 years ago that the tories ran their infamous ‘nigger for a neighbour’ campaign. It’s naive to expect we’ve moved on so much in such a short space of time. 

Events across the pond are rightly being condemned as police attempt to quell rioting caused by police brutality with ever more alarming acts of brutality. We think of the civil rights movement as a thing of the past. ‘I have a dream’, but that dream now only extends as far as banal memes to demonstrate how woke you are. Apathy is compliance, acceptance of the status quo, and that’s intolerable. Until there is real justice, there can be no peace. 

Black lives matter, because until black lives matter, none of our lives matter either. The struggle for equality binds us, it’s a shared destination that we must arrive at together. A lot of white people are getting it twisted as somehow excluding anyone else from ‘mattering’. It’s gross self indulgence and wilful ignorance to not see that this isn’t about you, but you do have work to do. Today, we stand with the black community in solidarity against the systemic oppression and profiteering from their land and culture that has formed the foundations of Western ‘civilisation’. Making it about your delicate white ego is precisely part of the problem.

Yet, I’ve spent time reflecting upon my own privilege, something that’s been hard at times, since my life has never really felt very privileged. I empathise that It’s hard for people to consolidate they’ve had a head start in life when the world they see around them doesn’t appear to reflect that. I say that for balance, but so long as our history books and education programs don’t accurately contextualise and confront the accepted narratives concerning our colonial history, the crimes of empire, the racism that built the world we live in, nothing will change.

I was moved by George Floyd’s death. I watched the video not knowing he would die, and felt like many that I wished I could punch through my screen and make it stop. It was shocking. Another massive fuck you to the notion of policing by consent, and another unnecessarily fatal abuse of power. This moved me to act on a concept I’d already been working on in the studio.

I’ve been playing with the iconography of justice, and that evolved into a series of paintings, ultimately a polyptych allegory of liberty. The IV July is replaced with IV SALE, we the people, whether our labour or data – our only purpose is to serve as stock. Emancipation was never about liberty or equality, which is why they compensated slave owners for their loss of ‘property’. It renders the concept of liberty as hollow as the statue itself. It was always about transference of wealth from the state to private ownership. Taxes from black people paid the debt for their ancestors freedom until as recently as 2015 in the UK. What a horrific legacy. So, with all of this rattling around my brain I felt like a black square on social media would never be enough, so I decided to go big!

I think in a world where opinions are stated as facts and with the backlash against science, and experts in general, these symbols are more important than ever. They’re archetypes within our collective conscious that transcend argument. You can’t fight a symbol, only reflect upon why you feel the way you do about it. These symbols are used to legitimise power and I want to challenge that authority, I want more of my work to provoke these kinds of reflections. Systemic change must come from public pressure, and if people aren’t hearing the message, we need to find other ways to communicate.

Ultimately, I know I’m incapable of ever fully understanding, but I do stand with you. 

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Just before New Year 2019 I was invited down to the BBC Studios in London to create a piece of art for their tech based science show, Click Live. What I didn’t realise, was that I would also be making history! I wont go into too much detail, as much of the information about the project is contained within the program itself, but that day I would become the first person in the world to paint using synthetic DNA that contained stored data.

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Massive Attack had commissioned a series of cans of spray paint containing this unique paint as part of their anniversary celebrations. My role within the show was to produce a piece of art using the DNA paint to help demonstrate potential uses for the technology in front of a live studio audience. I wanted to stay true to the initial concept artwork featuring the beetle, but with some simple details, like a helix, some DNA sequencing and a cracked microscope slide to add a graffiti stylisation in keeping with the theme of the piece. In total I only had about 3 hours to work on the painting, but thankfully it came together without too much drama.

Following on from the live show, I was interviewed in my studio space as part of a TV special that would further explore this incredible technology. Below are links to both the live show, and the special feature:

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On 16th April 2018 I set out to paste up a six metre by three metre painting on a billboard in the heart of Digbeth, Birmingham, UK. News events at the time have sparked controversy, and I’ve been working on a scaled up version of an exhibition piece from the same time last year with the Distorted Minds Crew featuring a suicide dove. It seemed like the perfect storm to get this piece up.

“You can’t lambaste a sovereign country as despotic whilst in every way acting like a tyrant yourself.”

There are a number of factors that have brought me to this point, but ultimately it boils down to a complete breakdown in trust with our government. Or moreover, the realisation that clich├ęs about bringing liberal democracy to the world and the abject failure of our foreign policy over the decades, are actually just a pretext for us as one of the largest arms manufacturers, to sell weapons to despotic regimes, to steal resources, to destabilise countries we consider a threat, and to posture on the world stage as though there were any semblance of the British Empire left.

Void One - Death From A Dove Billboard 2018

At the time of writing this we find ourselves caught in what appears to be a proxy war with Russia, railing against the use of chemical weapons with no clear evidence, compounded by the fact that we sold Assad the precursor chemicals he’s alleged to have used to produce sarin back in 2012. The OPCW completed a survey of the site we bombed in 2017 and declared it safe. Do we know something they don’t? Why wasn’t that shared and left to an independent body that was awarded the Nobel peace prize for their work in eradicating chemical weapons? Footage of the aftermath of our strikes clearly show there were no chemicals on site, else where are the hazmat suits? The breathing apparatus? I want any military action to follow clear evidence, not hyperbole and hearsay, else it sets a very dangerous precedent for the future. Have we learned nothing from Iraq?

Void One - Death From A Dove Billboard 2018

There’s been a complete disregard for international law and the convention that military action should follow a debate in parliament. Why were these air strikes conveniently pushed through whilst MP’s were on a break? Because ‘outsourcing’ decisions to a democratically elected body is no longer good enough, or worse, considered a hindrance? You can’t lambaste a sovereign country as despotic whilst in every way acting like a tyrant yourself.

Void One - Death From A Dove Billboard 2018

That Britain ought to stand against international war crimes is justified, but only when applied universally. Why is it acceptable to attack Syria under some pretence of moral duty, when in the same week journalists and civilians are being shot by snipers in the West Bank with not a word of condemnation from our government? When we sell billions in arms to Saudi Arabia whilst it’s widely known those weapons have been used for atrocities in Yemen? This government has blood on it’s hands and must be held accountable! When Theressa May’s husband stands to directly benefit from these strikes as a shareholder in Lockheed Martin, one of the worlds largest arms manufacturers, we should be very fucking alarmed!

Theressa May has no parliamentary majority, and is now sabre rattling in an attempt to cover up her shambolic record on everything from health, crime, social care, welfare, Grenfell, Windrush, the list is endless. May’s dismissal of criticism as a desperate humanitarian effort flies in the face of fantasy. You have to build peace, and you can’t do that with explosives, especially if it’s because you just want to be seen to do something. When our foreign secretary admits that “air strikes will not turn the tide of the conflict”, what’s the point? Its funny we always have money for war, [6 million for 8 missiles!] but nurses have to use food banks and disabled people are killing themselves under the weight of being erroneously deemed fit to work.

Void One - Death From A Dove Billboard 2018
There’s something deeply disturbing going on in this country and it frustrates me to the point I feel I need to speak out. My work “Death From A Dove” satirises the oxymoron fighting for peace. It portrays the reality of a world where the concept of peace has been rendered a hollow platitude served up to justify war. The last green leaf has fallen from the laurels, withered in the mouth of a suicide dove pulling the pin on a grenade. It’s presented in prime sight as a crime site, because that’s how I feel about what’s happening. It all seems so brazen! For me, it captures the hypocrisy and sense of hopelessness that pervades the current political climate.

I’m by no means done with this concept…

Void One_