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DWP // FIT FOR WORK_

I’ve been reluctant to associate myself with this project for some time, not least because I was arrested before new year and needed to be cautious about the way I intended to proceed until I had jumped through all the necessary legal hoops. This is without doubt the most daring of my protest campaigns, but also the one I feel most strongly about.

Let me set the scene…

It’s Christmas 2018. The queen sits in front of a golden piano, on a golden chair, preaching to her subjects about poverty in the UK. Condemned by the UN for cuts to public services and benefits that disproportionately affect the least well-off, the conservative government is in breach of its human rights obligations.

The tory austerity narrative has been utterly refuted. Worse still, declared ‘social murder’ by a peer reviewed study from Lancaster University. UCL research links health and social care spending cuts since 2010 to 120,000 excess deaths in England alone.  14 million people, over a fifth of the country are in poverty, with a record 60% of those in poverty in work, the highest figure yet recorded. The governments own research indicates that a shocking 4.1 million of those in poverty are also children.

As the brutal impact of DWP policy on the lives of people close to me and thousands more becomes clear, witnessing first hand the turmoil created by a regime of devastating sanctions and chaos over the switch to universal credit.  Seeing the pain and unnecessary suffering brought to bear by this government upon the most vulnerable in our society, it’s safe to say there’s something sinister going on in this country.

At a time when disability benefit claimant suicide rates have doubled to 43%, nearly half!  When the disabled and terminally ill are being declared “fit for work” in the face of overwhelming medical evidence, there is no question that this is an ideologically driven program of social cleansing. 70% of appeal cases are subsequently overturned, wasting thousands in unnecessary legal fees, as claimants are sanctioned starving or freezing to death in their own homes, DWP officials are claiming 44 million in performance related bonuses.

“It’s clear that our institutions are broken, not fit for purpose, and in need of serious and urgent reform.”

When homelessness is a crime, when poverty reigns on the streets of one of the richest countries on the planet. When homelessness has risen by a shocking 165%, and people are freezing to death on the steps of parliament, it’s time for immediate action, not platitudes about “strong and stable leadership” or  any of the countless sound bites regurgitated in parliament or the media to avoid answering for their criminal legacy. Public opinion must make it clear that we will not accept this!

When our elected representatives outright lie to both the public and parliament with impunity. After repeated scandals, U turns and systemic failures, conflicts of interest, and the first government in British history to be found in contempt of parliament, they laugh and jeer when questioned about the impact of leaving the life opportunities of a generation in tatters. No mandate to govern, no real majority within their own party, let alone parliament, desperately clinging to power through bribery, deceit & electoral fraud. Compassionate conservatism laid bare.

It is against this backdrop that on the 21st December 2018 I took it upon myself to paint FIT FOR WORK in 40 metre wide letters across the front windows of the Department for Work and Pensions. They’ve tried to cover up these protests in the past, as if that would in some way hide the reality of their savage policies. A metaphor for how they’ve ignored the real human toll of their actions. So it needed to be said much louder!

“DWP, more like The Department for Wealth and Privilege, because if you don’t own property, and or fall on hard times, you might as well be invisible, better yet, dead.”

I was ultimately caught mid operation and only managed to get part of the slogan up, and there’s a video link of the police chase at the bottom of the page if you fancy a laugh, but this statement still begs the question, what is this institution “fit for”?

I was given a caution for criminal damage, conditional on the attendance of a victim awareness course and a fine of £60. The suggestion that the victim in this situation is in any way the DWP is scandalous! The crass insensitivity demonstrated here is frightening. Yes, I could have been punished more harshly, and I accept that. I thank the police for dealing with me in a respectful way, despite cuts to their own funding that have left them threadbare and completely under resourced, which was why I was taken to Oldbury, because they were understaffed everywhere else. 

However, this country has a rich history of protesting that has lead to many of the freedoms we enjoy today, and it is our collective responsibility to stand up against these gross and systemic violations of peoples fundamental rights. It was infuriating to hear the police defend the DWP with statements like “you can’t fight the system”, “what’s the point?”. I explained how many of the most disgusting crimes in Human history were legal, from slavery to the holocaust, and that our government was complicit in mass murder, but I wasn’t about to change any minds. They exist to protect the very system I was fighting against.

I’ve not long completed the victim awareness course, that was meant to help me “gain an understanding of the effects of my behavior and learn to make informed decisions that will reduce my risk of re-offending”, but all it did was present me with an opportunity to discuss what real victim-hood was in a room full of people who ultimately congratulated me for my work, and suggested I should run for local MP. I think it’s clear from what has already been said here, that this was by no means an ill-informed decision. I would readily give up my liberty if I felt that it could in some small way make a difference. So, will I re-offend? Until this villainous scum are either removed from office, or brought to justice, I’d pretty much promise it!

For the future I’ll be working with The Hemp Trading Company to bring the Fit For Work concept to a series of T-shirts where 100% of the profit from these designs will go to charity, but I need your help. I’m selling Fit For Work sticker packs in store now as a means to both fund future protests, and so that you too can get involved! As we move toward what I see as an inevitable general election, we must make sure that issues like this are at the forefront of public conscience when considering who to vote for. We can not endure another 3 years of crippling austerity under the tories.

Click on the image below for sticker packs:

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BBC CLICK // MASSIVE ATTACK_

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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DEATH FROM A DOVE_

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 clichés 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!

https://www.rt.com/uk/424392-may-husbands-capital-group/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-philip-may-amazon-starbucks-google-capital-group-philip-morris-a7133231.html

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_