Yesterday (29 March) as Theresa May enacted Article 50 and so officially kick- started the UK’s withdrawal from Europe, responses across London’s art world were both direct and oblique, but universally negative.
At Lisson Gallery, Anish Kapoor was unveiling his throat-grippingly visceral new sculptures that look as if some giant beast has been flayed, dismembered and bagged-up in the gallery’s clean white spaces. But while Kapoor had already told The Art Newspaper in no uncertain terms that he found the UK’s departure from the EU “heartbreaking”, he was also keen to stress that even though his raw, wounded works might chime with the mood of the day, they did not refer to it.
“I hate Trump and I hate Brexit and they are around my life and my work, but they are not what the work is about,” he said. Nonetheless he was happy to pose in defiantly outraged “WTF?”-mode in front of one of his most dramatically gory creations.
Anish Kapoor in WTF-mode
The significance of the day was also not lost on the artist Jeremy Deller and the activist and Creative Time curator Nato Thompson. They had come together to discuss Thompson’s latest book, Culture as Weapon: the Art of Influence in Everyday Life (2017), at an event hosted by a/political in south London.
Among the audience coming together to hear about Thompson’s book—which explores the ways culture has been co-opted to tap into our emotions by governments and businesses worldwide—were the artists Oscar Murillo, Franko B, and Anjalika Sagar of the Otolith Group; the South London Gallery director Margot Heller; the Creative Time director Katie Hollander; and Artangel’s co-directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris.
Never mind that Thompson’s tome was completed before the outcome of both the UK’s referendum and the US presidential election, it was widely agreed that his analysis of the relationship between advertising, media, art and politics could not be more relevant to the current status quo on both sides of the Atlantic.
It was also appreciated that the in-conversation took place next to the Russian artist and provocateur Andrei Molodkin’s work that pumps crude oil through a container spelling out the words “FUCK YOU”, while across the room was Santiago Sierra’s sculpture consisting simply of the giant word “NO”. Enough said.