Many of the works in this room were made as interventions in political debates, often drawing attention to those who have campaigned for citizenship and civil rights. In several cases, the choice of materials also has distinct political associations.
Richard Hamilton’s The citizen 1981–3 depicts an IRA prisoner as a martyr-like figure. Demanding to be treated as a political prisoner rather than a criminal, he wore only his prison blanket and painted his faeces onto the cell walls. In Then & Now 2016, Lorna Simpson draws upon images of a 1967 race riot in Detroit to reflect on the legacy of racial violence in the United States today.
Other works address political struggle more obliquely. In Barthélémy Toguo’s Purification 2012, an array of human figures are intertwined with words from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Alluding to the fire hoses turned upon young black school children marching peacefully in Alabama in 1963, Theaster Gates’ Civil Tapestry 4 2011 arranges hoses in a configuration that recalls abstract painting from the same period. Flag I was made when Teresa Margolles was representing Mexico at the 2009 Venice Biennale. As drug wars claimed the lives of thousands of people, she collected blood from murder scenes that she later transferred to cloth, and hung a blood-stained flag outside the Mexican pavilion as a memorial for citizens that the nation would rather ignore.
By contrast with the other works, Artur Zmijewski’s footage of public protests in Democracies 2009 focuses not only on those seeking freedoms but also on the crowd behaviour of extreme right-wing movements.
Curated by Mark Godfrey
The Moross Gallery