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Protest Is Beautiful, silk flowers, 2007

Protest is Beautiful
1000000 mph project space, 59 Old Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6QA
Contact Director: Dallas Seitz 07974174111
Curated by Esther Windsor 07792 080554

2 June – 1st July 2007
Opening times Friday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm

1000000 mph is proud to present Freee’s first solo show in London, profiling existing and new works that engage with contemporary political and socilal realities, critcally addressing and using the format of public art.

In this exhibition works include: Protest Is Beautiful, a new work made from a funeral wreath in letters of yellow silk flowers, photographed and mounted on plywood outside the gallery, appearing as shop sign. Both a melancholic lament and reminder and iconic public message in the style of shopping or advertising. Inside Don’t Let The Media To Have The Monopoly On The Freedom Of Speech, 2007, a new work as a direct message in a photograph pasted on a large installation wall, while How To Talk To Public Art, 2006 is a video of a dissenting tour of Manchester’s public artworks. Instead of being subject to the secret codes of public art, the citizen addresses commemorative monuments in terms of jokes and histories, with the intention of highlighting the public life that goes on around public art, for example Is It Me Or Do Monarchs Have An Unfair Advantage When Being Seen Or Heard? or There Are No Experts On Happiness. Another new video work is included, Public Space, Public Realm, Public Sphere, 2007 in which the three chant, like a choir or kindergarten class, theoretical attacks on dominant conceptions of the public.

Protest Is Beautiful, 1,000,000 mph, London, 2007

Protest Is Beautiful, silk flowers, Freee shown here at Rotate. The International 3. Contemporary Art Society, 2008. London
Freee on Protest Is Beautiful:
With this work we introduce performance into the work, albeit minimally. The artist appears in the work – as model, if you like – in a way that mixes Text Art with Body Art, as well as scripto-visual photographic practices, the readymade or appropriation (we had the flower text made commercially by a company that makes funeral flowers), all in addition to our questioning of the tradition of public art by our use of the billboard. We also used this image as a shop sign print above the window of our solo show at 1,000,000mph.

Review by Bryan Eccleshall:

There is much to protest about these days, but how to go about it in an era when The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” rattles around the brain at the (non) election of a new Prime Minister, whilst doubling as the title music for the very shiny CSI: Miami?

Freee – Dave Beech, Andy Hewitt and Mel Jordan – hope to place a kind of honest protest at the centre of cultural activity with their show at 1000000mph in Bethnal Green. Outside the gallery is a shop sign overhead, in which the three artists hold up the name of the show made as a funereal wreath in letters of yellow flowers. It’s seems like a memorial to protest and its potential while embracing a need to sweeten the pill of sloganeering. Freee make works that amuse rather than alienate. You might not agree with everything they say, but you’ll probably smile at the work and acknowledge that they probably have a point, unlike the ranting nutter flogging political platitudes that you cross the road to avoid.

There’s a smartness in the work that doesn’t overstep itself. In the 2006 video piece, How To Talk To Public Art, they ask simple questions of statues and sculpture throughout Manchester. A film of these small interventions runs on a loop. Highlights include: Is It Me Or Do Monarchs Have An Unfair Advantage When It Comes To Being Seen Or Heard?; Insurgents, Criminals And Terrorists Banded Together To Place Obstacles On The Street As Barricades To Prevent The Forces Of Law And Order From Reaching Their City Centre Strongholds and One Day Scientific Progress, Digital Technology, Social Engineering And Genetic Manipulation Will Allow Us All To Be Astronauts. The last slogan is delivered as three speech bubbles as Dave, Andy and Mel vacantly chew gum (it makes them look like they might be talking, but can’t be bothered really). To me it imparts a naïve hope coupled with a kind of agnosticism. In short, there are probably more important things to do.

This could all be ironic postmodern guff, but I don’t think so. Freee talk about encouraging a rounded, questioning, free(e) thinking citizenry that are awkward and searching, rather than blindly towing any party line, which is an encouraging idea in an era beset with false gurus, celebrity endorsements and plug-in air fresheners.

A large photograph – hinting at the iconic Ramones LP – carries the slogan Don’t Let The Media To Have The Monopoly On The Freedom Of Speech on three white t-shirts. It’s a striking image, one that uses a retro touchstone, but comes from people who have heard the LP, rather than simply thinking the photo cool. It’s this happiness to engage in real issues rather than posture over a pair of Converse All Stars that makes me warm to Freee.

Of course, at the heart of this work (and it is in the heart, at least as much as the head), is the one irony they can’t escape: Don’t follow leaders, and that includes us. Think for yourself.

Protest Is Beautiful is beautiful.