For this exhibition I created two works, Meme x 2 and Meme Encounters that made visible the life cycle of such ideas, believes, fashions which are taken up by society at one point in time and then dropped and forgotten when another idea, attitude takes over, e.g. ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ has been discarded in favour of ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’. Litter, in the widest sense of the word, spreads through our environment like a virus for which we have no thought or cure at present.
On MDF board sprayed with silver car paint I have arranged in rows black film containers in a shape resembling a flower head. Within a row a new flower head (new idea or meme) appears in that it has a white centre. It spreads through the following rows till it has gained ascendancy over the black flower heads and is itself ‘invaded’ by a new flower head (white with a black centre). It goes without saying that these containers are normally thrown away.
Meme x 2
The installation (the Return of the Unwanted) shows how a Meme may be superseded for better or for worse, in this case surely ‘for worse’.
The first work shows the uncontaminated Thames at low tide. It is very beautiful. The second work is of the urban Thames. Bits of litter are swirling around in the water and a red canister is bobbing through the painting. It is still beautiful.
The third wall-hung piece is a ‘River of Litter’, after which you enter a dark damp room. Gulls are screaming and waves crash on the beach, only this beach is rubbish that I collected from the Thames foreshore at Bermondsey. It is as if it has finally poured out of the paintings. In the course of collecting the rubbish, I found 25 white plastic bottles containing a message each.
After the damp room, a sculpture suspended from the ceiling forces the viewer to push aside a bicycle wheel (retrieved from the river) to view a photo attached to a squashed bottle. This photo shows rubbish dumped in front of gate with the sign ‘Please do not obstruct’. The viewer is physically forced to engage with the rubbish – a non-verbal message.
Message in the bottle mystery solved
I had not wanted to open the bottles but eventually managed to read one of the messages through the bottle. I realized that they had not ‘sailed’ very far but had come from the nearby Riverside School. I invited the kids to the exhibition. They had a wonderful time running through the vast exhibition space of the former Peek Frean Factory in search of their postings.