CND
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   Excerpts from 'Dispatches from an Unofficial War Artist'

   I remember in 1979 going to a tiny office in Great Queen Street
where the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was based. It was there that I showed Bruce Kent and a few others my photomontages and said I’d like to do work for nuclear disarmament.

   I had become disturbed by the fact that the burgeoning anti-nuclear campaign was using undoctored images of nuclear bombs and missiles, merely adding their own slogan. This was also the time when Athena posters were selling a poster of an air-brushed mushroom cloud which was deemed to be an acceptable image to put up on bedroom walls. I still have the page from their catalogue which illustrates the poster, next to two American pick-up trucks, all listed under ‘The Twentieth Century: Power and Energy’.

   My elder son once came home with a book called Discover the World of Weapons. On its cover was the photo of an enormous missile pointing skywards at the title. The whole book was designed with psychedelic 1960s graphics. This was considered suitable reading matter for eight year olds. And they called us insane. I felt that these images had to be broken, had to be taken out of the supposedly rational discourse in which they could become domestic decoration.

   The point of my work is to use easily recognisable iconic images, but to render them unacceptable. To break down the image of the all-powerful missile, in order to represent the power of the millions of people who are actually trying to break them. After breaking them, to show new possibilities emerging in the cracks and splintered fragments of the old reality.

Broken Missile, 1980, photomontage

CND posters, flyposted in Hackney, London, 1981

London changed for me in the years of CND. The photo- montages I made for the disarmament movement were out in the street, stuck on walls, up in town halls, on badges and in newspapers. I could spot my work around the city being used in campaigns rather than only being shown to people in galleries.

Front page of The Sunday Times, 25 October 1981, showing Broken Missile on placards

A poster of Broken Missile taped to the fence of Greenham Common by a protester, 1982

   The headquarters of CND were so cramped that movement had to be strategic. I remember I had to lay my work on the floor, causing total snarl-up for human traffic. From that space, in the early 1980s an enormous movement for disarmament grew. I remember the early discussions I had there about re-invigorating the CND symbol, leaving the office and then going back a day or so later with very tatty roughs that I’d made deconstructing the symbol so that in the end it started looking like an ad for British Rail. Each attempt failed until I made a cardboard peace symbol which I photographed from different angles and broke the image of a missile on it as if on a wheel. At first that still didn’t seem to work as the missile was too flat and unthreatening. So I went to what appeared to be the missile department in Hamley’s toy shop, bought a plastic missile, smashed it up with a hammer and photographed the debris. This finally became the image.

On Saturday 24 October 1981 I got on a 73 bus with my partner Judy and young son Daniel and went to Hyde Park. There were thousands of people on an enormous demonstration for nuclear disarmament who were holding up Broken Missile on placards as well as another image I’d made for the Labour party, Crushed Missile.

CND demonstration in London, 1982