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  • Writer's pictureBen Browton

Ways of Protest

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

I am pleased to have work selected for the exhibition 'Ways Of Protest' which is taking place at the Elysium Gallery, Swansea between 28th November and 23rd January. The call out asked for artists from all countries exploring art as a vehicle for protest and how activism and a desire for change can drive individual and collective creativity. The exhibition aims to research and look at different Ways of Protest.

The contemporary works in the exhibition will be accompanied by archival pieces from the Swansea Museum collection displaying some of the vibrant and important landmarks of Protest in Wales. There will also be contributions by local artists, community groups and the people of Swansea. The Ways of Protest exhibition forms part of a city-wide festival of exhibitions, events and activities centred around protest and social change.

I submitted my video work 'A Flicker Of Recognition', which was accepted. For me, this work deals with silent protest & how a protest can be made in the absence of a voice? The two themes that run through this performative video are about my own voice as an artist, and how we select what we reveal and what we hide when we make art. It also refers to my own selective mutism as a child, whereby I apparently chose to withdraw my voice for a period of 6 months following a traumatic move from the Isle Of Wight, my birthplace.

The second theme is wider, by which I wished to challenge art gallery and museum visitors over their seeming inability to study artworks for longer than 28.63 seconds on average (research by Arts Institute of Chicago 2001). In making my video artwork, I wished to make a "living work of art" in which I challenged the gallery visitor to a staring match, daring them to hold eye contact with me for the full 3 minutes and 18 seconds of my video performance in 2019.

Still from a flicker of recognition 2019 (videography; James Cosens)

This video will be displayed in Elysium Gallery and hosted on the Elysium Gallery youtube channel for the duration of 'Ways of Protest' A second item was chosen for 'Ways Of Protest', and this was a lapel badge from my personal archive. It features a photograph of me from my time as the singer Seymour Bybuss of punk band The Shapes (1977-1980), and was made on the occasion of a Rock Against Racism open air event at Bath Place in Leamington Spa in 1978, featuring local bands. As I pointed out in my submission to Ways Of Protest, Rock Against Racism was perhaps as important back then in the visible drive for justice and racial harmony as the contemporary #blacklivesmatter movement.


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