Live Collages 87 - 94 are, to a great extent, Michael Bowdidge’s personal response to the Brexit referendum and its aftermath, having been made immediately before, during and after the vote, just before Slumgothic Live Collage became a collective entity in the July.
These two events may well be related.
The source images for these works draw primarily on Blockage (also known as the ‘x-church Merzbau’, after Kurt Schwitters’ similarly named ‘junk structures'). This was a temporary structure built in May 2016 from stage blocks, pallets and old boards. It blocked the nave of x-church, forcing visitors to move through its labyrinth-like interior in order to move from one end of the building to another. Blockage in turn gave rise to the diagonal fence which divided the church during last year's Festival x-24, which in turn has evolved into the 'x' shaped fence which will structure this year's event in July.
The aim of all of this is to put art very deliberately ‘in people’s way’ in real life, much as has been done with the Live Collages on social media. Blockage’s bunker like appearance seemed particularly apt, given the frequent references to ‘being under siege’ by immigrants that featured in the tabloid press during the weeks preceding the vote.
There is also perhaps a reference here to the split in the x-church community between the artists, curators and board, who were solidly ‘remain’, and the other users of the building, who voted almost unanimously for ‘leave’, though thankfully these differences were dealt with respectfully and without incident, which is more than can be said for much of the rest of the country.
A nautical theme also runs through these works, which may reflect the notion of Britain as a sea-faring island nation who once ruled the waves (and an empire) and now hankers for the supposed certainties of a mythical monocultural past. Some of the language and imagery here is far from subtle, and there can be no apology for that – it reflects the anger and sense of hopelessness and betrayal that Michael felt at the time.
Live Collage 171 - Deviant Women (Echo) is a later but related piece, made from photographs of a performance by Fenia Kotsopoulou and Joana Cifre-Cerda, who are respectively Greek and Spanish.This work of theirs sought to expose and render visible some of the anger, despair and fear which European nationals often feel in the post-Brexit United Kingdom. Live Collage functions in this instance not as documentation, but as a remediation and transformation of that event, and as an oblique form of archive.