Across the country as we speak, bunting is being strung, trestle tables are being pulled out of garages, and cake moulds are being dusted off. But infamous anarchist artist, Jamie Reid, certainly won’t be waving any flags this weekend…
Instead, always one to subvert the mainstream, Reid has chosen this occasion to launch his new piece – Bloody Empire
In today’s blog, we’re revealing more about the exclusive new artwork, and chatting to Jamie about the movement that inspired his artistic career.
“I’m not against Elizabeth II herself, I’m against the system of monarchy and control. It’s hard to support the monarchy when you look at the facts.”
It’s widely known that one of Reid’s main areas of influence is the Situationist movement – a Paris-based intellectual art group whose slogans (‘Never work’, and ‘Be Realistic! Demand the impossible’) were daubed across the streets of Paris during the riots of 1968.
This period of unrest and general strikes lasted for seven weeks and brought the French economy grinding to a halt amidst fears of revolution or civil war.
The riots inspired an entire generation of protest art – in the form of graffiti, music, posters, and slogans, and captured the imaginations of Reid and his then classmate, Malcolm McLaren. You might say it sparked the unique brand of provocation both artists used moving forward as a way of revealing societal truths and enacting change.
One of the primary positions presented by the movement was the idea that much of society is based on what they call ‘the spectacle’ – a theory first put forth by Situationist, Guy Debord, in his 1967 work, La société du spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle).
According to Debord, ‘the spectacle’ refers to the ‘autocratic reign of the market economy’, and the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena, such as advertising, television, film, celebrity…and of course, the monarchy. In short, the spectacle is capitalism’s tool for pacifying and distracting the masses.
This new piece tackles this idea of spectacle in relation to the British Empire. It highlights the bogus notion that the British Empire, which thrived under the rule of Queen Victoria, was something that was benign, when really, as we all know, it was anything but.
While entire nations were distracted with the pomp and circumstance of British parades and the dishing out of rosettes, the Empire raped and pillaged its way across the globe in a brutal manner, all in the name of money and slavery.
“The British Empire shouldn’t be celebrated. Millions died and entire cultures, vibrant progressive cultures, were stamped out by the British Empire. People died so that places like Liverpool, Bath, and lots of London could be built on the backs of people’s blood. People’s lives and families were destroyed for generations entirely for British gain, and principally, white British male gain.”
Pillars of the Establishment
The role of the artist is to enlighten and educate, and Bloody Empire does a great job of reminding us that nothing has really changed – these pillars of the establishment still exist, with the monarchy and in the government, the criminal justice system and beyond. Everyone is linked and political decisions are made based on the assurance of financial gain for a select few. Reid states:
‘There’s the assumption, pedalled by policy and the media, that if someone has something, they must have done something to deserve it, when in actual fact a lot of what they have was stolen."
It’s always nice to hear about the genesis of an artwork, and this exclusive came about when Enter Gallery’s art buyers paid Reid a visit. He had doodled on a postcard of Queen Victoria, blacking out her eyes and giving her the dribble of blood that we see in the piece coming from her mouth.
This postcard was an early of iteration of what has been transformed into this new print, complete with the crudely cut-out letters seen across Reid’s oeuvre, a scrawled ‘Vampire Vandal’ in homage to the situationist slogans, and of course, Victoria’s new moniker – ‘Empress of Pain.’
Bloody Empire is exclusively available at Enter Gallery in three eye-popping colours.