The 2008 banking failure caused pain and disruption for everyone over many years and even now we’re still feeling the after-effects of such a devastating financial collapse. Many people lost money either directly through the banks, stocks and shares or negative equity in their homes. Having had such a long-lasting effect on the economy means it will go down in modern history books as one of our most turbulent times.
So there’s no doubting that this makes great material for artists to capitalise on – excuse the unintentional pun. Set yourself forward 200 years looking back on 21st century history and imagine an archaeological equivalent to the Time Team. Our artist equivalent to Tony Robinson (aka Baldrick in Black Adder) is Keith Piper with the appropriately titled show ‘Unearthing the Banker’s Bones’. A renowned British artist his solo show encompasses a triple-film installation, sculptural motifs, drawings and painted murals spanning three decades.
Initially I’m wondering what’s in the glass display cases and in turns out to be human remains, specifically the bones of rich bankers. Imagine an assemblage of rib cage or thigh cartilage, our only ways to examine the physical properties of a world of decadence gone bad. The drawings situated next to them look akin to old-school National Geographic hardbound books or even the Bible titled ‘The Banker’s Inventory’ depicting what profit and loss looks like via a bone, or more accurately known as calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate.
Social upheaval and economic collapse form the narrative behind the huge triple-screen film installation in the Bluecoat’s main exhibition area. It invites viewers to imagine the excavation and dissection of modern life from a future point in time through the destruction and devastation of our beautiful, natural world.
The rest of the exhibition forms a strong core of paintings similar to old Soviet style propaganda posters or science fiction book covers depicting the rise and fall of an economic nation. A touch of science fiction that reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984. Piper was influenced in particular by Octavia Butler, an American science fiction writer, whose work often featured themes of humanity being our ultimate destructor. We’re killing ourselves – go figure!
Now finished (sorry!)