Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Writing On Your Wall

Edinburgh Printmakers until October 25th 2011
4 stars
When Jeremy Deller put Rupert Murdoch's wrinkled walnut face on a
sky-blue 'Vote Conservative' poster to raise funds for the Labour
Party, it looked like satire. Given the ongoing phone-hacking saga, it
now feels like prophecy. The 'Murdoch Doesn't Give A XXXX' poster
opposite from 1986's Fortress Wapping days may be dated in terms of its
reference to a then novel Australian fizzy lager, but, seen alongside
Deller's piece, it's an important pointer to how history repeats itself.

Curated by Rob Tuffnall, this group show aims to reclaim the radical
grassroots of print., when a pamphlet, a poster and a button badge were
the ideologue's weapons of choice. Such notions date all the way back
to James Gillray's early nineteenth century cartoon, awash with
pop-eyed society grotesques. Crucial archives from post 1968 Notting
Hill provocateurs King Mob include a flyer for the famed department
store Santa action which Malcolm McLaren may or may not have been
involved in. James Connolly's magnificently named slim volume,
'Socialism Made Easy' and Christopher Logue's post Vietnam poem posters
marry pop and protest in a way today's largely aesthetic-free
groupuscules could similarly learn much from.

Alsadair Gray's portraits of very personal defiance, Ruth Ewan's
text-based provocations and Joanne Tatham and Tom O'Sullivan's 'An
Indirect Exchange...Of Uncertain Value' series are similarly striking.
A new piece by Dellar shows a newspaper photo of a glum-looking quartet
outside their soon-to-be-closed community centre. Dominating the room
are ten prints by some-time collaborators of Mayo Thompson's avant-rock
band, The Red Krayola, Art & Language. Taken from the covers of A&L
publications, quasi-mock heroic images take a stand in classic
socialist-realist apparel. A new piece, a framed, text-heavy
paper-chain, might well be the missing link beteween theory and action.

Such militant tendencies are probably best personified, however, by the
presence of an old-school typewriter and the sort of hand-operated
vintage printer that fuelled a thousand late-night strategy meetings by
clandestine cells of agitators fine-tuning manifestos to turn the world
upside down. This is the means of production seized in all its
inky-fingered fervour.

The List, October 2011


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