- State Britain
State Britain is an installation artwork by
Mark Wallingerdisplayed in Tate Britainin January 2007. It is a recreation from scratch of a protest display about the treatment of Iraq, set up by Brian Hawoutside Parliament and eventually confiscated by the police. Haw's display contained several hundred items donated by members of the public. As well as continuing the protest, Wallinger's recreation in a different context also brings up questions of authenticity. Wallinger won the Turner Prizein 2007 for this piece. [Higgins, Charlotte. [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/turnerprize2007/story/0,,2221321,00.html "Bear man walks away with Turner Prize"] , " The Guardian", 3 December 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007.]
"State Britain" is a meticulous recreation of a 40 metre long display which had originally been situated around peace campaigner Brian Haw's protest outside the
Houses of Parliamentagainst policies towards Iraq.
The original display consisted of over 600 items, many donations from the public, including paintings, placards, banners, posters, graffiti, traffic cones, tarpaulins, temporary fencing and toys. These included a poster, "Blair Lies, Kids Die!", a banner, "Baby Killers", photos of babies maimed and burnt in missile attacks, a statement that parliament spent seven hours discussing the war in Iraq and 700 hours discussing fox-hunting, and a white teddy bear holding a sign, "Bears against bombs".Januszczak, Waldemar [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2101-2551422.html "What do we want?"] "The Sunday Times",
21 January, 2007. Accessed online 3 February, 2007.] In the centre is an image of Haw fixed to a wooden cross and wearing a t-shirt that says, "Bliar".Cole, Olivia [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2546262.html "Tate puts artistic bomb under Blair"] "The Sunday Times", 14 January, 2007. Accessed 4 February, 2007]
Haw's original display, apart from a three metre section, was confiscated by the police under the
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which prohibits unauthorised protests in a specified "exclusion zone" around Parliament. Mark Wallingeremployed 15 people for 6 months and spent £90,000 to recreate it in its entirety. It was installed inside the Duveen Hall of Tate Britainin January 2007. Signs at all the entrances to the hall warn that the exhibit contains images of extreme human suffering.
"The Sunday Times" saw the show as more indication that the arts establishment had turned against the Labour government. It contrasted Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota's endorsement of Wallinger's show with the private tour of
Tate ModernSerota had given to Prime Minister Tony Blairin 2000. At that time Blair's government had courted Young British Artistssuch as Tracey Eminand Damien Hirstto help "modernise" Britain.
"State Britain" was curated in collaboration with Wallinger by Tate curator, Clarrie Wallis. It is part of a series of contemporary sculpture commissions at the gallery. Previous artists in the series have included
Anya Gallaccio, Mona Hatoumand Michael Landy. There have been previous installations in the space by Luciano Fabro, Richard Longand Richard Serra. [http://www.tate.org.uk/about/pressoffice/pressreleases/2007/8401.htm "State Britain by Mark Wallinger"] Tate press release, 15 January 2007. Accessed 3 February 2007]
"State Britain" was on show until
August 27, 2007.
Wallinger was shortlisted for the
Turner Prizeon 8 May2007 for "State Britain", [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6634501.stm "Anti-war art on Turner shortlist, BBC"] Accessed 8th May 2007] and announced the winner on 3 December 2007. [Reynolds, Nigel. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/12/03/baturner104.xml "Mark Wallinger wins 2007 Turner Prize"] , " Daily Telegraph", 3 December 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2007.]
The Tate press release on the exhibition mentioned that the
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005prohibited "unauthorised demonstrations within a one kilometre radius of Parliament Square" and that this radius passed through the Duveen Hall, literally bisecting Wallinger's exhibit. Wallinger marked this on the floor with a black line running through the Tate. Initial press reports dwelt on the potential dangers of this infringement, speculating that the police might even remove the half of the exhibit on the "wrong side of the line".Teeman, Tim [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14936-2548700.html "State Britain"] "The Times", 16 January, 2007. Accessed online 3 February, 2007] However, Charles Thomson of the Stuckists pointed out the exclusion zone ended at Thorney Street, 300 yards before the Tate. [Thomson, Charles [http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1993865,00.html "As we like it"] "The Guardian" 19 January, 2007. Accessed online 3 February, 2007] The one kilometre radius is the maximum possible, but not actual, area of the designated zone, which is mapped out by particular streets.
A few days before the opening of the exhibit, Brian Haw said he knew nothing about it, but that "What we had ... were pieces of art." He was invited to view the work while it was being installed and was pleased with the result. [Kennedy, Maev [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1991288,00.html "Tate's anti-war display crosses legal line into no-protest zone"] "
The Guardian", 16 January, 2007. Accessed 4 February, 2007]
Tim Teeman commented that Wallinger created the exhibit not only to bring what he perceives as a dangerous erosion of civil liberties to light, but also to examine whether the installation was art or politics; Teeman concluded that it was obviously both.
Waldemar Januszczakcommented on "a cheeky intervention that raises lots of interesting questions," but that these were about "issues of originality and authenticity", rather than the original political intent of the display. Edward Lucie-Smithcalled it "official art" and considered that Haw, not Wallinger, should receive the credit. [ Lucie-Smith, Edward [http://www.stuckism.com/Tate/WallingerStateBritain.html "Edward Lucie-Smith exclusive post to this site (17.1.06)"] stuckism.com. Accessed 4 February, 2007]
Notes and references
* [http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/wallinger/ Tate Britain's page on "State Britain"]
* [http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/art/2007/01/wallinger.html Review of "State Britain"] (with pictures) by "
* [http://www.casa.ucl.ac.uk/andy/qt/ParProtest.html 3D Panorama of Brian Haw's original site (requires QuickTime)]
* [http://www.met.police.uk/publicorder/images/Section_132_7_boundary.jpgMetropolitan Police map of the exclusion zone]
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