Weapons of Mass Construction: The Overground Wombles , Brian’s Westminster U.N. Heart Gallery and Drummachine - Notes

The title Weapons of Mass Construction, refers to the context for this work: the recent war in Iraq, where weapons of mass destruction (aka WMD) were cited as the main legitimation for launching a pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

The weapons documented here are of a different kind: though they are made of cheap and disposable materials they are in fact proving indestructible and sophisticated.

These are examples of the latest intelligent weaponry made under advanced capitalism - fueled by the dreams, hopes and visions of a handful of people who know that another world is possible.

Brian’s Westminster U.N. Heart Gallery
(4 pieces of construction fence, black out material, 2 coca-cola crates, white board, plinth, slide projector, 70 slides, 10 blanks, paint, broom handles, 2 photographs)

This is an improvised projection room made up of 4 construction fences and various materials I found in the gallery store incl. black out material, string, tape, pieces of board and paint. My method of making the piece was inspired by the ingenious construction methods often found on the 'street' - the kind of DIY culture which I have previously explored in the 'Protest Objects' projects.

Inside the space the viewer was presented with a “Do It Yourself Slide show”, and invited to look through 70 slides documenting Brian Haw's protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London. (The slides were projected onto a board perched on two upturned coca-cola crates, on loan from the gallery).

Brian Haw's protest is well known in Britain, as he has been on the pavement since 2001. Most tourists to London will inevitably come across Brian because of his location opposite the Houses of Parliament and most Londoners are likely to have passed by atleast once in the four years that he has been there! Furthermore occasional articles in the press and on TV will have made many people in Britain aware of his protest.

I met Brian on his pavement soon after I moved to London and was very pleased to see him. I spotted the site from the top of a double decker bus, and was intrigued so I got off and took a look. I remember talking to him about his protest and asking him about the origins of the placards. I was struck by the way the objects were so carefully arranged and was interested in the diversity of voices that were present. Brian explained to me that the banners and placards came from different people, as well as himself, and how that was important to him, he said that this was like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The title of the piece is taken from one of Brian's signs (also depicted in one of the slides) which reflects this aspect - a small sign which declares the pavement to be 'Brian's Westminster UN Heart Gallery'. I chose this title as I was bringing the protest into a gallery space. The objects in the slides express views against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, highlight the effects of UN sanctions and depleted uranium, and call for peace and democracy in general.

The title, and the selected slides, reflect the fact that although there are many contributers, this is basically a one-man protest, and the pavement has been transformed into one man's mediation space.

I am interested in this situation as an example of the possibility of resistance. Brian has taken up long-term residence on the pavement directly opposite the Houses of Parliament, to express his disapproval to those in power. Unlike the politics inside the Houses of Parliament, this man's politics are clear, the information projected here is openly subjective. Motivated by one man’s anger and love it has integrity and speaks to the minda and hearts of passers-by.

For more info on Brian Haw visit his official web site: http://www.parliament-square.org.uk

Democracy Begins At Home
Two photographs hang outside the projection space – a portrait of Brian on his pavement, and a photo which shows the site from the back view with a large banner, which states 'Democracy Begins at Home'. These are documentary photos.

I made the banner as a contribution to Brian's collection of messages and slogans. I chose this slogan because like so many people I felt this war was entered into without the consent of the people: the UK government spoke of delivering democracy to Iraq, whilst ignoring the widespread opposition it faced to its proposals at home. The slogan gains further meaning as the UK government has been attempting to remove Brian on several occasion, and is currently drafting legislation especially for this purpose.

The Overground Wombles
2 Womble costumes, stuffed

Well-known to a British audience the Wombles are bear-like creatures, which were invented by Elisabeth Beresford in 1968. They live underground on Wimbledom common and spend their days cleaning up the rubbish left by humans on the common. They are ingenious recyclers. Here, they stand outside the projection space, like guards.

A photocopied handout about the Wombles, and was available to visitors of the exhibition.

I first made these womble costumes as part of Do Others Before They Do You, where they were worn by participants of a 'protest march-performance,' and exhibited alongside a variety of objects addressing a variety of concerns. All the objects that I made then were imitations of objects I found in media images of protest. In this context I have chosen to place them alongside images of real objects, and they assume a more symbolic role in this context - I consider them to be like fictional representatives of the power of subversion.

bicycle, customised trailer, oil drums

This piece was inspired by a bicycle, which I saw and photographed at a demonstration in Italy in 2002. A trailer equipped with containers of various sizes was attached to a bicycle – to create a simple drum machine, specially designed for use at a demonstration. My version is not an exact copy, though it deliberately references the original object. The source photograph was exhibited alongside the other photos on the outside of the slide show space.

In this piece (unlike the other works on show) no cultural references are made, and no specific messages are attached, though shown beside the piece Brian’s Westminster U.N. Heart Gallery, the oil drums gain a significance as references to the war in Iraq. A formal connection is made by the orange plastic used to decorate both pieces.

In the exhibition, the drummachine is available for use by the audience. It is designed as a collaborative noise-making tool - one person can cycle whilst another stands on a platform and drums.

August, 2003



Weapons of Mass Construction index

home I projects I contact