Michael Landy

We Leave the Scum with No Place to Hide


Not on display
Michael Landy born 1963
Ink on paper
Frame: 980 x 765 x 40 mm
Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Angela Westwater, 2001
On long term loan


This is one of around thirty ink drawings Landy made both during and after the creation of his installation Scrapheap Services 1996 (T07221). Since his studio was too small to work out the entire installation all at once, Landy recorded information and ideas on paper. Initially this took the form of sketches on empty packaging and bits of scrap paper. This process gradually developed into large-scale, carefully executed drawings in black ink. We Leave the Scum with no Place to Hide was made shortly after the first installation of Scrapheap Services in the group exhibition of young British artists titled Brilliant! New Art from Britain at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis in 1995. References to Brilliant! appear in several places on the drawing, which is entirely covered in a combination of image and text. The title's words, in white against black, appear near the centre of the page. They form one of the many slogans of the Services in the installation, appearing both in the promotional video and on the side of the 'Vulture' people shredder, drawn in the upper half of the drawing. On a ladder attached to the 'Vulture', one of the faceless, uniformed mannequins of Scrapheap Services is pouring a bag of the installation's little people into the shredder. Landy has filled almost every available space between image and text on the drawing with piles of these figures, which are being swept up, like leaves, by other mannequins positioned at intervals over the page. The installation's two signboards appear in the lower half of the drawing, with letters to indicate colour fields as though they were from a child's colouring book. Stylised drawings of fast-food, discarded packaging for hamburgers and sweets, soft drink cans, rubbish bins and representations of public road signs are punctuated by slogans from the promotional video, 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. Larger representations of the installation's little cut-out men and detailed drawings of footwear float chaotically over the page.

Landy's installation Scrapheap Services presents a satire of contemporary society and the excessively sanitised social ideals offered to the public by advertising, both for political parties as well as consumer goods. One of the related drawings Sweep to Victory (T07212) seems to represent (ironically, given its title) the ultimate victory of the rubbish, since 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. In a similar manner, We Leave the Scum with no Place to Hide provides another ironic representation of its title. In this drawing it is the space-filling 'scum' - the ubiquitous heaps of little figures - which leaves no place for anything else to hide.

Further reading:
Michael Landy: The Making of Scrapheap Services, exhibition catalogue, Waddington Galleries, London 1996, reproduced p.13
Michael Landy, Scrapheap Services, London 1996
Jeremy Lewison, 'Michael Landy, "Scrapheap Services" (1995)', Tate the Art Magazine, issue 13, Winter 1997, p.vi.

Elizabeth Manchester
February 2002

Display caption

In 1995 Michael Landy created a room-sized installation called Scrapheap Services. This fictional ‘people-cleansing’ company satirised contemporary society and the excessively sanitised social ideals offered by corporate advertising.

Landy spent two years researching the project, collecting materials from recycling banks and rubbish bags outside fast food outlets. His sketches on empty packaging and bits of scrap paper gradually developed into large-scale, carefully executed ink drawings such as this, made both during and after the creation of his installation. The title is a slogan used by the mythical cleaning company.

Gallery label, September 2004

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