Placards
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Excerpts from 'Dispatches from an Unofficial War Artist'

   A pile of battered looking placards is leaning against the wall. They were made 15 years after the placards that used my images on disarmament marches. They represent a different vision of the street as a site for struggle and are part of an installation of placards in ruins.

   The specific qualities of paint and various other materials is something which I used to enjoy and have repressed for 20 years, because I felt it was important to make work which was bound up with political movements. Now I have got to find a new way to get work across. Working with cardboard, paint and dust is less repressive for me at the moment than working with montage.

   I made the first ones in 1993. Held up by rusty metal vices they have images on them of hands – as if the hands of the campaigner had evacuated onto the placard itself. These hands are tearing at the cardboard of the placard, as if tearing at their own representation. The placards look as if they were dug up, archaeological remains of a long gone street protest. Covered in dust and grime, they appear as a desperate grasping against social anæsthesia.

   I wrote about these placards in Domesday Book:

I spin around the site
At the edge of discard,
Wood and card on sticks.

Rotting placards
Abandoned from an action,
Making a stand - now dust.

Flung away
To here, off centre,
A rim of history.

Or maybe fought off -
(Some smashed,
Some blood-spattered).

Slowed down remains,
Movement splintered
For archaeology.

Hands -
My hands?
Your hands?

Taut under pressure,
Miming the hands
Of the carrier,

Slither up sticks
Onto placards
Amputated into image.

   Now, comparing the two sets of placards, those for CND and those made 15 years later, they do represent a change in the political, and through that my personal, landscape. These placards are shown in galleries. In the street they would become indistinguishable from the street. As with the pallets, I have tried to build into them the textures of the street, as if its grime and dust were sucked onto their surface. The result is contradictory. By taking on the surface wear and tear of everyday life, they become a representation of struggle rather than the visual elements in a struggle as in the case of the CND placards.