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'.
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demand originally made by gay activists in the 1960s.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.
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.
Solanas was similarly dismissed or
ignored throughout her life. Here the artist revises and corrects
the historical news story, referring to Solanas by her full name and describing her target anonymously,
but accurately, as an
Clare Short maintains it is a mistake to link socialism to any
one system of social or economic organisation. Socialism is first and foremost an ethical position
concerning the inclusion and welfare of all.
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.
Inga Beale, former Chief Executive of Lloyd's, the world's oldest insurance market, maintains that double standards
still apply to men and women. Men are judged by what they can do. Women are still judged first by the way
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.
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 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.'