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“LOUDER THAN BOMBS” Art, Action & Activism

7 Weeks, 7 Residencies, 7 Ways to Activate Change

Steven Levon Ounanian & Thomas Thwaites / Áine Phillips / Sean Burn / Ansuman Biswas / Stacy Makishi & Yoshiko Shimada / Prick Your Finger / The Vacuum Cleaner

“Art that cannot shape society and therefore also cannot penetrate the heart questions of society, [and] in the end influence the question of capital, is no art.”  Joseph Beuys 1985

Please visit for short films on each of the projects.

Over the course of seven weeks, the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston will hand over its entire exhibition space to host a series of week-long Live Art residencies. Co-curated with the Live Art Development Agency, London, through an open call for proposals “Louder than Bombs”: Art, Action & Activism is an ambitious programme of public workshops and live events that will focus on challenging social, political and global issues of the day, addressed through the seven invited artist/activist’s individual working practices and the Gallery audience’s direct participation and responding involvement.

Its title borrowed from a compilation album by iconic anti-establishment beaus The Smiths (in turn borrowed from Elizabeth Smart’s extended prose poem By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept), “Louder than Bombs”: Art, Action & Activism addresses the highly charged political possibilities of Live Art that have been taken to new levels by a new generation of politically invested artists who are blurring the boundaries between art and activism in exciting and engaging ways. “Louder than Bombs”: Art, Action & Activism has been developed as an extended element of a wider collaborative research project “The Art of Intervention: The Intersections of Public and Private Memory” between Kingston University and Kyoto Seika University, Japan.
“Louder than Bombs”: Art Action & Activism Programme:

Week 1: 9-13 February – Steven Levon Ounanian & Thomas Thwaites “Honey Trap”
The black-market operates alongside an open economy of security products and theft insurance. It benefits the open market to hype the risks, as goods that are stolen will need to be replaced. Honey Trap is a bicycle designed to be stolen and able to record its own surroundings: relaying sound, images and other information about its subsequent whereabouts. Making a spectacle of the crime, this sensational ‘gaze’ is certainly uncomfortable, but allows an examination of rights to surveillance and the treatment of crime in the media.  “Is our use of someone else’s misfortune, or opportunism, in our art project justified because they stole our bike?”

Week 2: 16-20 February – Áine Phillips “The Lost Runway”
Using the conventions of the fashion show format, Áine Phillips’ The Lost Runway is a collection of specially created sculptural costumes, each dedicated to a ‘lost girl’ as a living personal monument embodying the story of her life. The Lost Runway is an ideological space invested with beauty, desire, loss and longing. The work is a sensitive, poetic and challenging testimonial to missing persons, and the lifelong searches of their friends and families, giving public form to private memory in the service of human freedom and the right to the protection of life.

Week 3: 23-27 February – Sean Burn “Napalm Perceptible: A Dictionary for the BNP”
“Words are weapons. And I’m in a war!” — Andrew Vachss
Racism is on the rise and made worse by the recession. We are all defined by language, yet too often our own voices are educated, socialised, classed, gendered, ethnicised, medicated or otherwise removed. Sean Burn – writer, performer and outsider artist actively involved in disability arts – will create a “Dictionary for the BNP”, by interrogating the roots of each entry of a standard English dictionary. Physically deleting all “non-indigenous” words, language will act as the ‘lightning-conductor’ to deconstruct the absurdities of extremist hate.

Week 4: 2-6 March – Ansuman Biswas “Present”
“What is there left to give? What do we share now? My gift is the present.” — Ansuman Biswas
Gifts can be powerful social binders, but today aid is big business and can be a balm for post-colonial guilt and a lubricant for a post-industrial economy, where poverty and luxury have shifting definitions. Charity can be highly performative; played out in Live Aid, Red Nose Day, Children in Need, and the adoption of third-world babies by Hollywood A-listers. For his residency, Ansuman Biswas will enter the gallery with nothing – no food, no water, no clothing – and remain for one week, throughout which anyone is welcome to bring to him whatever they think he might need or want.

Week 5: 9-13 March – Stacy Makishi & Yoshiko Shimada
“When I Fell For You I Fell Like The Bomb” / “Sleeping With Your Enemy”

Hawaii-born artist Stacy Makishi and Japanese artist Yoshiko Shimada work independently across a wide variety of media, investigating perspectives on cultural identity, sexual politics, and personal and private memory. Taking two previously instigated projects as their starting point, the artists are collaborating for the first time. With the legacies of Hiroshima and Pearl Harbour as unavoidable counterpoints – “the bomb has landed in much of my work,” says Makishi – they will develop a live project reflecting their shared fascinations with the parallels, ironies and complex histories of political, cultural and sexual relations between Japan and the U.S.

Week 6: 16-20 March – Prick Your Finger “Murder at the Wool Hall”
Prick Your Finger is a yarn shop and textile gallery in Bethnal Green, London, that’s putting the rock ‘n’ roll back into textile and fashion production. Run by Rachael Matthews and Louise Harries, Prick Your Finger is concerned that British textile production has been lost to unethical manufacturing of disposable fashion. By constructing the world’s first bicycle powered wool mill, they will turn unwanted sheep fleeces from within the M25 into a range of seductive yarns, good enough for the Queen.
“We’re asking the world to listen to sensible ways of profiting from nature without exploitation.”

Week 7: 23-27 March – The Vacuum Cleaner “What Difference Does it Make?”
Fighting consumer culture, climate change, authority and injustice (“wherever it hides its filthy face”) are the vacuum cleaner’s bread and butter causes; Creative Resistance, Civil Disobedience, Corporate Interventions, Pranks, Hacktivism and Subvertising, their tools of choice. But with crisis dictating the agenda there has been little time to ask “What Difference Does It Make?” So for the first time the semi-notorious artist-activist will present some of the projects, actions and battles never clearly presented or documented before. Expect Resistance! Expect Anarchy! Expect Something!

These projects were selected following a public Call for Proposals, which can be viewed here.

Related event:
Art, Performance & Activism
– exhibition and screenings at Pump House Gallery, London
Wednesday 18 January to Sunday 26 February, 2012, 11am to 4pm. Free

An exhibition featuring the work of artists/activists from Japan who push the boundaries of where art, performance and activism intersect, including Yoshiko Shimada, Soni Kum, Chikako Yamashiro, Cho Yukio/Akira The Hustler, Bubu de la Madeleine, Teiji Furuhashi and DumbType. Sunday 5 February 2012 includes continuous screenings of documentation from Louder than Bombs: Art, Action & Activism, 7 Weeks, 7 Residencies, 7 Ways to Activate Change – featuring Steven Levon Ounanian & Thomas Thwaites, Áine Phillips, Sean Burn, Ansuman Biswas, Stacy Makishi & Yoshiko Shimada, Prick Your Finger, and the vacuum cleaner. Full details of the exhibition and related events can be found here

Other projects in “LOUDER THAN BOMBS” Art, Action & Activism

Seven week-long residencies on cultural social, and political art and activism with Stanley Picker Gallery.

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Louder than Bombs, flyer

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