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Women and Power
Martin Firrell + Clear Channel
2024
DE
Martin Firrell
British, born Paris France. 1963
Martin Firrell is a Franco-British public artist long associated with the international out-of-home industry. His 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'.
View full Wikipedia entry
Selected artworks
Curated by
Barbara Ulbrist + Dr. Christiane Kunz
Wikidata
Q6775431
Women and Power
2024
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Display
UK-wide from 19 February 2024

Women and Power
is a series of 7 billboard artworks created by public artist Martin Firrell in conversation with 7 women who have experience of holding power in arts, literature, finance, education and culture. The series explores the way woman regard and exercise power, and is supported by the artist's 2023/4 residency with leading Out of Home media company Clear Channel UK.
Leaders in Frocks
(with Carolyn McCall)
2024
Dame Carolyn McCall is the CEO of ITV.
Leaders in Frocks
refers to a conversation early on in Carolyn's career. The comment was intended to belittle a way of holding power perceived as 'feminine' or 'soft'. Carolyn remembers replying, 'One day you'll realise that a bit of empathy goes a very long way in management.' Her career as CEO Guardian Media Group (2006-10), CEO EasyJet (2010-17) and CEO ITV (2018-present) tends to support that view.
Fall Down (with
Rebecca Salter)
2024
Artist Rebecca Salter is the first woman to be President of the Royal Academy of Arts in its 255-year history. As a young artist, Rebecca chose to continue her postgraduate studies in Japan.
Fall Down
is based on a Japanese proverb, much admired by Rebecca as a powerful evocation of tenacity.
Polite and Obedient (with
Joanne Harris)
2024
Joanne Harris is an acclaimed novelist, and the current Chair of the Society of Authors.
Polite and Obedient
reflects Joanne's view that activism is necessarily uncomfortable. Barriers to equality can only be overcome through agitation and (in Joanne's own words) 'this is why the suffragettes made such a nuisance of themselves'.
Women from Northeast Lancashire
(with Heather Hancock)
2024
Heather Hancock is the first woman to serve as Master of St. John's College Cambridge. Heather is proud of her Lancastrian origins. She notes that Lancastrian women became accustomed to economic independence (and the power that gave them) from their work in the Lancashire cotton mills. They also had to make themselves heard above the noise of the cotton looms and so 'speaking up' is not something Lancastrian women find difficult.
Eat Me (with
Maggi Hambling)
2024
Maggi Hambling is among the world's most important living artists.
Eat Me
is intended to reflect the essential vulnerability of the artist. Artists working in public space are 'consumed' by a public which may be knowledgeable or ill-informed, hostile or benign. For artists, power often resides in the ability to choose who to engage with, and who to ignore.
Super Power (with
Julia Hoggett)
2024
Julia Hoggett is the first out gay CEO of the London Stock Exchange.
Super Power
refers to the sudden fearlessness many gay people feel on overcoming their trepidation about coming out. Remaining hidden saps a huge amount of energy. Openness and visibility amplify personal power and agency.
Your Power (with
Ngozi Fulani)
2024
Ngozi Fulani is the CEO of Sistah Space, the non-profit organisation supporting African and Caribbean heritage women affected by domestic and sexual abuse.
Your Power
highlights Ngozi's view that power can be perceived rather than actual. When perceived power is refuted, it ceases to exist because it is, in reality, baseless.
Power Is Always Temporary
2007
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Royal Opera House, July 2007

All power must come to an end, in the end. It makes no difference who holds it. The temporariness of power limits its use and the potential for misuse. Anyone in power would do well to be mindful of the inherent precariousness of their position.
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They'll Find You Nude
2007
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Royal Opera, July 2007

In a military conflict, women and children are particularly at risk.
They'll Find You Nude
describes the disruption of domestic life and the ever-present risk of violence or uninvited sexual attention experienced by one woman during a South-American military coup.
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Cod Wars Turned Me Gay
2022
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January 2022

'Cod Wars' broke out between the UK and Iceland in 1972 - the same year the UK's first Gay Pride march took place. To herald UK Pride's 50th anniversary year,
Cod Wars Turned Me Gay
lampoons the idea, prevalent in the 1970s, that someone could be turned gay, in this case by the sight of burly trawlermen in dispute over fishing rights.
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Daytime TV Made Me Lesbian
2022
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January 2022

New legislation, allowing TV companies to broadcast during the day, was passed in 1972 - the same year the first Gay Pride march took place in the UK. To herald UK Pride's 50th anniversary year,
Daytime TV Made Me Lesbian
satirises the ludicrous idea, common in the 1970s, that someone could be turned lesbian, in this case by the sight of glossy daytime TV presenters.
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Embrace Lesbianism and
Overthrow the Social Order
2017
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July 2017

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.
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What Oppresses Us
2022
Medium
Digital & Paper billboards

Displayed
UK, July-August 2022

The Gallery is the brainchild of arts producers Artichoke and public artist Martin Firrell. It can be thought of as an 'alternative national gallery' with no walls to hold the artworks in, or to keep anyone out.

Firrell's artwork for The Gallery
What Oppresses Us
quotes from French feminist theory of the 1970s: any oppressor, by definition, has the power to shape all of the responses of the oppressed, including what the oppressed come to regard as erotic or desirable.
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How To Be Popular
2021
Medium
Found footage (b&w, sound)

Duration
1:22

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.
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The Question Mark Inside
2008
Medium
Projection

Displayed
St Paul's Cathedral, November 2008

The Question Mark Inside
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.
sun not despair (schematic)
2008
sun (in arabic)
2008
The Taking of Christ (Carravagio)
c.1602
A kiss
2008
Design for st Paul's shop paper bags
2008
Life reaches out to life (arabic)
2008
All Men Are Dangerous
2006
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, February 2006

All Men Are Dangerous
was created for the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain at a time when wars were ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both conflicts were widely held to be colonially motivated and against international law.
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All Men Are Dangerous
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2019

The artist presented the text
All Men Are Dangerous
again, on billboards, in 2019. This time, the 'dangerousness' referred to might be subtle and diffuse like the risk-taking that caused the financial crisis in 2008 or the gathering threat of climate change. Or it may point to the immediate and visceral dangers of anger, retribution and war.
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War Is Always A Failure
British Army 2009
Medium
Projection

Displayed
British Army Guards' Chapel UK November 2009

War Is Always a Failure
was created during the artist's residency with the Household Division of the British Army. The artwork reflects the views of military personnel (who regard military intervention as a last resort) and the artist's conversations with British philosopher A.C. Grayling.
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War Is Failure
2020
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2020

In October 1967, The Mobe (National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam) organised an anti-war march in the USA to include the exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon. Rituals and mantras would make the Pentagon rise 100 feet into the air, turn orange and vibrate. Allen Ginsberg described the levitation as a 'happening that undermined, psychologically, the authority of the Pentagon'.
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Living Peacefully
2020
Living Peacefully
echoes the more colourful 'Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity' (anti-Vietnam war placard, 1969). The attempt to eliminate war with war is, of course, nonsensical. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela teach that radically different strategies are required. The counter culture movement embodied the ideal that the route to peace was peace itself.
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Protest Is Liberty's Ally
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July to August 2019

Recent legislation has led to far-reaching restrictions on the right to peaceful protest. But liberty dies where there is agreement without thought or argument. This artwork highlights protest's significance as a guarantor of freedom. If nothing can be contested, is freedom any longer present and actual?
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