Posted at edinburghfestival.list.co.uk –
Art-activists kennardphillipps and Carol Naughton on how their festival shows capture and inspire the spirit of dissent | Edinburgh Festival
Bomb Culture was the name of poet and painter Jeff Nuttall’s personal analysis of the 1960s counter-culture from a frontline which, in 1968, when his book was published, was still very much in place. Its title referred to how the threat of nuclear war had influenced a post-Hiroshima generation who embraced anti-nuclear sentiments through the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND), founded in 1957 with a unilateral opposition to what would now be termed Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Much of that spirit of dissent can be found in Here Comes Everybody and Pop and Boom: 70 Years of Nuclear Culture, two exhibitions which combine activism and art in a way where protest and people power becomes both mass spectacle and a work of art in itself. Where Here Comes Everybody shows off a series of photomontages and digital prints by kennardphillipps, the collaborative duo of Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps, Pop and Boom is a compendium of pop cultural artefacts inspired by the nuclear threat, and pulled together by Greenham Common veteran Carol Naughton to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
‘If you just show images of the disaster itself,’ Naughton explains, ‘there’s a horror to it and people switch off, so I wanted to commemorate it in a way that felt real for people, and show how nuclear weapons have influenced popular culture. In the first years it was purely reactive, then in the eighties the whole thing took off as protest rose, and the two together were very powerful. Nowadays nuclear weapons in books and films are incidental, and people don’t realise what nuclear weapons are, so part of the exhibition is to remind people of their significance.’
It was Kennard’s images in the 1980s for CND, Stop the War and other campaign groups that provided a visual identity for a youth-driven protest movement that was immediate and subversive in a way that chimed with the post-punk era’s alternative DIY cut-and-paste aesthetic.