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Creativity has long been associated with vanguard ideas: art and music can give a voice to the unheard, power to the vulnerable and celebrate the human capacity for positive action, even in adversity.
The works in this exhibition, drawn primarily from the Arts Council Collection, give insight into some of the counter-culture and anti-establishment movements of recent decades alongside work by artists who seek to make a difference, helping to suggest ways that we might contribute to change on an individual, community and even global level. Works include Susan Philipsz’ version of the rousing anthem The Internationale (1999), broadcast across the Bothy Garden landscape and A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World (2003–) by Ruth Ewan which welcomes visitors into the gallery space.
A series of sculptures and prints from the mid-1970s, around the time of YSP’s inception, highlight the volatile environment of the era and the rise of anti-capitalist, punk and do-it-yourself movements: Christiania (1977) by Mark Edwards captures the Danish anarchist commune that emerged from the squatting of an abandoned military barracks in Copenhagen; Andrew Logan’s Homage to the New Wave (1977), a large mirrored mosaic safety pin, appropriates the symbol that came to represent punk culture and ethos; and Victor Burgin’s Possession (1976) questions the fairness of wealth distribution.
In Peter Kennard’s subversive photomontage Haywain, Constable (1821) Cruise Missiles U.S.A. (1981) (1981), three nuclear warheads are inserted into the idyllic East Anglian countryside of John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain (1821). Shown alongside Marcus Lyon’s Greenham Women to be Evicted (1992) and Nightguard, Stonehenge (from our Forbidden Land) (1988) by Fay Godwin, the works highlight a shift towards anti-war and land access activism in the 1980s and 1990s. Helmet Head No.3 (1960) by Henry Moore, a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, also features.
The final room premieres a new episode of Larry Achiampong and David Blandy’s FF Gaiden series. The video, which uses the virtual landscape of Grand Theft Auto V as its backdrop, shares the story of Alison Catherall, a local resident who has long championed social justice at a grass roots level.
Photo: Steve Johnston, Punk Portrait, 1977-78. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist