Head Of State
Head Of State
Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps began working together under the name kennardphillipps in 2002, collaborating to produce art that responded to the build up to and aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Both attended anti-war demonstrations and their collaboration saw them create works that reflect their opposition to the conflict such as Photo Op (2007), in which former Prime Minister Tony Blair is depicted taking a ‘selfie’ in front of an explosion,
“We both had this deep need, desire, to make work to counter…I don’t know, British foreign policy which sounds insane right, just to try and counter military action with artwork but, I don’t know, that’s the position that we take as artists - that it is a very valuable and powerful way to operate against military might and violence and policy,” said Cat.
In the wake of the 7/7 attacks in London and with the backdrop of new terror legislation introduced by the government, they began work on head of state (2007).
It features central image of Tony Blair alongside CCTV cameras and images representing some of the people and issues that were in the news at the time. It includes photos of campaigner Rose Gentle, whose son Fusilier Gordon Gentle was killed in Iraq; former home secretary John Reid and Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot and killed by armed police in July 2005.
Both Cat and Peter believe art has a powerful role to play in conversations around conflict.
“Art has been really important in the Imperial War Museum because you are looking at all these weapons and there’s a sort of text with them but then you look at a work that actually responds – you know, Paul Nash or whatever it is – actually responds to the war. Art is absolutely integral to having a building, a museum like that to show how people respond - either artists who were in the wars or artists like us who are working with material from wars,” said Peter.
head of state by kennardphillipps was shown at at IWM London as part of Age of Terror: Art since 9/11, an exhibition exploring how artists have responded to conflict since 9/11.
Image: kennardphillipps Head of State 2007