Michael Landy

Sweep to Victory


Not on display
Michael Landy born 1963
Ink on paper
Image: 1267 x 817 mm
Purchased 1996


Both during and after the creation of Scrapheap Services (Tate T07221) Landy made ink drawings based on its themes. Sweep to Victory graphically depicts the processes of Scrapheap Services, but here the mannequins of the installation who carry out sinister 'cleansing' activities are virtually submerged by Landy's stylised rendering of discarded wrappers for crisps, juice, peanuts, chocolates, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, beer and soft drink cans and so on. Virtually every inch of the paper is covered in careful drawing, punctuated by slogans from the video in the installation, together with handwritten transcripts of newspaper articles 'rubbishing' contemporary art, letters seeking funding or sponsorship in kind for the making of the installation, and instructions for use from home improvement materials such as paints, lino paste, acrylic filler and fluorescent battens. Even the installation's two signboards appear in the drawing, with letters to indicate colour fields as though they were from a child's colouring-in book. The giant 'Vulture' people-shredder of the installation appears in the top half of the drawing, with the Scrapheap Services logo on the pile of shredded men underneath, but here it is drastically reduced in scale. The drawing is dominated by the flood of rubbish over which representations of the installation's little cut-out men float chaotically.

Landy intended the installation Scrapheap Services to be set in a sterile and alienating environment created by white walls and fluorescent lighting to emphasise that the rubbish will be ruthlessly eradicated. By contrast, Sweep to Victory seems to represent (ironically, given its title) the ultimate victory of the rubbish. The eye-catching logos of commercial goods leap out from the page and dwarf the frenetic activities - letter writing, preparations for DIY, rubbish disposal - going on in between. More ambiguous than the installation, the drawing represents in two dimensions all the elements of its three dimensional version on the equalising level of a single sheet of paper.

Further reading:
Michael Landy, Scrapheap Services, London 1996
Brilliant! New Art from Britain, exhibition catalogue, Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis 1995, pp.58-60

Elizabeth Manchester
October 2000

Display caption

This drawing shows the work of Scrapheap Services, the mythical cleaning company presented in an installation Michael Landy made in 1995. The mannequins carrying out sinister ‘cleansing’ activities are virtually submerged in fast-food packaging. Their activities are punctuated by the company’s slogans, transcripts of newspaper articles ‘rubbishing’ contemporary art, letters seeking sponsorship, and instructions for using DIY materials. A giant ‘Vulture’ people-shredder appears above the Scrapheap Services’ logo and a pile of shredded men.

Landy set the installation in a sterile, alienating environment to emphasise the ruthless eradication of rubbish. By contrast, this drawing suggests the rubbish is ultimately victorious.

Gallery label, September 2004

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