Martin Firrell is a British public artist whose works challenge unjust power systems of all kinds, including patriarchal power, the oppression of women and non-heterosexuals, and the heteronormative status quo. He uses language to engage directly with the public, provoking dialogue about more equitable social organisation. The artist's reported aim is 'to make the world more humane'. His work has been summarised as 'art as debate'.
asked theologians, scientists, artists, atheists,
and the general public, 'What makes your life meaningful?' Wildly diverse answers,
from the domestic to the sexual to the sublime, were projected onto the Dome, West Front and Whispering
Gallery to mark the cathedral's 300th anniversary.
The Gallery is a new kind of cultural institution, serving the four nations of the UK. It has no walls to hold the artworks in, or to keep anyone out. The Gallery's first season invited 10 artists to respond to the words 'Straight White Male'.
What Oppresses Us
quotes French feminist theory of the 1970s, suggesting the oppressor controls all aspects of the oppressed's psyche including what is considered erotic or desirable.
is a series of five public artworks created to mark UK Pride’s 50th anniversary on 1 July 2022. The artist invited LGBT+ networks and their allies to contribute what they felt were the most important issues facing the LGBT+ community in the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s and the 2010s.
marks 105 years since the publication of the first Dada Review in Zurich. The artworks magnify flaws like tears, uneven inking and foxing in the original Dada pamphlets. The texts re-state aspects of Dada philosophy for our times now that the calamity of war has returned to Europe.
Radical Lesbian feminists of the 60s and 70s suggested there was only one way for a woman to escape
male control: embrace lesbianism as a political rather than a personal act. Feminists argued this would undermine the social structures
that traditionally place men at the top of the social hierarchy.
Anti LGBT+ propaganda from the 1960s is re-edited to lampoon its message that
homosexuality is a mental disorder. The artist reverses the roles of the two main characters so it is the
young hitchhiker whose 'illness' prompts him to take advantage of a wholly reasonable and friendly
the artist is re-stating a
demand originally made by gay activists in the 1960s. This, and five other demands from gay liberationists, were presented nationally by the artist to mark
the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.
Lesbian activists of the 1960s characterised aggressive dominant male behaviour
as sub-human or monstrous.
By lampooning patriarchal power, they aimed to lessen its impact and embolden people from all walks of
life to renounce gender-based oppression.
Activists from the Gay Liberation Front argued that the oppression of women and gay men was a
by-product of rigidly enforced gender roles. They noted, for example, that the gender role of masculinity was linked historically with domination,
oppression and violence.
A 1947 public information film advises young people how to be popular, largely by conforming to conventional
gender roles and parental authority. The artist reorganises the material to subvert the heteronormative assumptions of the film's
narration, queering the protagonists so that the 'boy meets girl' story takes a distinctly different turn.
is a play on a protest placard made by human
rights campaigner Peter
Tatchell for 1973's London Gay Pride. The artist's large-format digital billboards commemorated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the
Gay Liberation Front in the UK by stressing that the struggle for full LGBT+ equality is not yet over.
When radical feminist theorist Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, the newspaper
Andy Warhol Shot by Actress.
The reporting was
lazy and inaccurate. Here, the artist corrects the historical news story, at the same time shifting the main point of reference from Warhol to Solanas. He refers to Solanas by
her full name, reflecting her importance as a key figure in radical feminism and relegating Warhol to anonymous target, albeit describing him accurately
Comprendre quelque chose pleinement, c'est pouvoir n'en rien dire
Flyposter 841 x 594mm
Marseille December 2010 to February 2011
To Understand A Thing Fully Is To Be Able To Say Nothing About It reflects on the nature of understanding and knowledge. Also titled 'L'Éloquence du Silence', the artwork implies that silence must inevitably fall when understanding exceeds the expressive capabilities of language.
A 1946 public information film warns against the concentration of media power into a few hands,
and the dangers of censorship. Simultaneously, the artist's reorganisation of the material (and addition of subliminal elements)
subverts any possibility of control or censorship.
Curator Barbara Ulbrist surveys the art of Martin Firrell focusing on the years 2018-2020. During this time the artist displayed 40 different artworks on billboards across the UK bringing his particular variety of 'art as debate' to the majority of the country's towns and cities.
was developed in conversation with five women who have experience of power in business, political, or public life. The series examines the difference between the way women and men gain, hold and use power.
describes the realisation of one trans woman's identity in her own words.
The artwork examines the principle that if all identities are constructed, then all identities
are, at root, equal. Less usual identity constructions are no different.
They are simply less usual.
The media promote a one-dimensional cardboard cutout of a hero: film and television are full of nightmare visions / erotic dreams in which masculinity, sex,
domination and violence are conflated. Complete Hero presents an alternative, plural
definition of heroism seen through the eyes of military personnel, scientists, artists and philosophers.
I Want to Live in a City Where No One Is Sent to War
National Gallery UK July 2006
I Want to Live in a City Where
presents a wish-list of liberal policies as digital projections onto the facade of the National Gallery of Great Britain. The series comprises an ambitious, artist-led agenda for civic agitation and renewal.
commemorates the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Fire is projected onto the dome of St Paul's in waves of colour consistent with flame of increasing temperatures
(from dull orange to yellow to blue to brilliant white).
In 1988, four women abseiled into the House of Lords shouting, 'Lesbians Are Out!' They were protesting against Clause 28 which effectively demonised LGBT lives. 21 years later, MPs
admitted that the law was offensive and unacceptable.
Red travels most easily through the hot, thin atmosphere
Violet bears an ominous resemblance to "violent"
Orange suggests other realities between red and yellow
Yellow is an instance of happiness speeding to its own end
Indigo is measureless as the uniform blue-black of the deep pacific
Blue contains all the longing a human being is capable of
Green Is Savage Still as The Monstrous Fern Forests of Prehistory
White is a desolation, a non-state like a blank mind
Grey is an Ambiguous No-Man's Land, a half knowing
Lloyd's of London UK, 29 June 2017
The artist invited 200 senior leaders in business, culture and policy to a Think-In, designed to question
traditional gender roles and modelled on the consciousness-raising think-ins pioneered by the
Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s.
is a 6 frame gif drawn from a 1959 US military information film.
The film deals with nuclear testing and the need for strict secrecy if the enemies of America are to be kept at bay. In this
repurposed form, the artist uses the same messaging to question the value of any information contained in his own artworks.
He is, in effect, saying, 'Ignore anything I say here. Make up your own mind.'