This week is one of bitter commemoration, as it is exactly one year ago that the UK went into its first official lockdown. But amid all the ensuing weirdness and sadness, one glimmer of positivity has been the way that, as commercial advertising has dwindled, the country’s billboards have become available for artists to make strong public statements.
The latest campaign to hit the nation’s streets is Division/Revision, a 16-strong poster project curated by Uta Kögelsberger, artist, curator and professor at Newcastle University, which in both form and content expresses the turbulent state we are still in.
"Division/Revision is a reflection on how relations are being re-defined through seismic shifts in the current social and political landscape," says Kögelsberger. To express these momentous changes she has invited 16 artists, including Jeremy Deller, Larry Achiampong, Alberta Whittle, Victor Burgin, Hardeep Pandhal and Mark Titchner, as well as submitting a work of her own, to address the questions: What brings us together, and what pushes us apart?
Appropriately for this time of continuing flux, the resulting 16 images are being shown on 16 billboards that change daily over 16 days in locations in London, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, ending on 31 March. Each work appears at a different location on each consecutive day, so at any one time the entire range of works is simultaneously on display across the country.
This constantly changing public procession provokes a variety of sentiments: Titchner’s deceptively forthright slogan Where do You End and I Begin? ponders connections, group consciousness and the boundaries of self; Larry Achiampong’s series of Pan-African flags celebrates diasporic African identities, here devoted to “the centre of community, black womxn”; more obliquely atmospheric is Jane and Louise Wilson’s presentation of a pair of panoramic pre- and post-cyclone tropical landscapes; and there are myriad ways in which to interpret Ingrid Pollard’s three suggestively-sloganed photographs of dusty interconnected hands, Hardeep Pandhal’s riotously cartoonish disintegrating figures or Rut Blees Luxemburg’s image of a nocturnal shuttered, graffitied shop front.
Over the ensuing week, as they merge and blend into one another, these 16 works both unsettle and energise our city centres, celebrating hybridity and offering multiple responses to our shifting status quo.
• Division/Revision is presented in collaboration with the BUILDHOLLYWOOD family of Jack, Jack Arts and Diabolical.