I make banners with Liz Driver, who has phenomenal skills with a sewing machine.
The huge ‘Overcome’ banner, over seven metres wide, was made and installed at Winchester School of Art as part of my MA show in 2015. Titled ‘the impossibility of consensus’, it represented a culmination or place-marker, of my body of work about language, ideology, optimism and demonstration, which I had begun to pursue during my BA degree course. I was attracted to the word because it can carry opposite meanings: depending on its context it can imply victory or defeat.
I used ‘man-made’ fabric – rip-stop nylon – as for me it epitomised an era of socialist optimism about human progress and a fundamental belief in the ability of humanity, through science and technology, to overcome every difficulty. The word is fixed across five separate wall-hangings, hung edge-to edge to allude to disjointedness in grand-narratives; the failure of utopian visions of society. The word is made from slightly mismatched letters of differing sizes to reflect the inconsistencies and compromises inherent in communitarian projects and to allude to my ambivalence about political ideology.
The word does not fit. It is too big for the space. It is internally inconsistent. It looks both celebratory and declaratory but may have ominous overtones.
Overcome what? Overcome whom? Is it ‘We Shall Overcome’ or ‘we will BE overcome’? Where do viewers place themselves in relation to these ideas? What emotions and reactions are provoked by the scale of the piece and what it might mean?
A number of woodcut prints were made in a similar vein.