U.S. vs THEM by Ben Turnbull

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Lazirides Gallery in London presents work by artist Ben Turnbull, with pieces that reference the Iraq war, American gun culture and the political and religious climate under the Bush administration.

Top image: Home of the Brave, 2006
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Above: Every Home Should Have One No.3, 2006

The exhibition runs until 28 February at the gallery on Greek Street, Soho.
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Above: Memorial, 2006

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Above: Memorial, 2006
Below is a statement about the exhibition issued by Lazarides Gallery:

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U.S. vs THEM, is Ben Turnbull’s first exhibition at the Lazarides Gallery, and presents a group of 15 provocative, politically committed and striking new sculptures that reveal the dark side of U.S. society and its political system, in the year that the American Presidential election race heats-up. The exhibition presents familiar symbols of religion, sacrifice, patriotism and propaganda and subverts and exposes their brainwashing effect by re-making them from accumulated flea-market toys, or re-packaging them as huge games, all branded in the iconic red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes.

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Homecoming (2006), presents a coffin draped in the American Flag, and calls on us to glorify a soldier’s sacrifice. The effect is very different when we realise it is made from the damaged body parts of over 100 ‘Action Men’. The Flag’s demand for patriotism is mocked in America (Free) (2005), a giant ‘rubiks’ cube that displays the broken image of the Flag. Three unmarked white crosses point to organised religion’s claim to commemorate the dead, but Memorial (2006), made from the bodies of 1,500 toy soldiers reveals our ultimate irrelevance in the eyes of Church and State. Fix (2005), repeats this symbol of sacrifice, and remakes it as a giant unsolvable puzzle.

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A second group of works comment on the violence and paranoia created by the gun culture at the core of American life. In Home of the Brave (2006), the monumental letters U.S.A. are literally made-up of hundreds of toy guns. In Every Home Should Have One (2006), Turnbull remakes on a monumental scale the familiar image of an emergency alarm, and replaces the bell to call for aid with a self-help toy gun. The widespread paranoia and fear of other people, fed by media news, is mirrored by the repetition of this motif throughout the show.

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All the Pezident’s Men (2006), a further group of huge toys, takes the iconic image of American Presidents, familiar to us through their constant repetition in the media during well-funded election campaigns, and re-packages them as the inter-changeable heads of a Pez sweet dispenser. These works relate to the election posters that adorn the walls of the gallery, parodying presidential election campaigns by seeking to persuade us that it’s Time for A Change (2007), and that change is possible, if only we vote for the head of a be-suited and slick-haired Ben Turnbull.

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Turnbull is fascinated by the global dominance of American culture, and his works
unsettling effects result from re-presenting the toys of our innocent youth in symbolic
forms that reveal the shocking truths about war, death and guns in the world’s most
powerful country. Above all they take a satirical look at the lengths that thecountry’s
political elites go to in order to control and manipulate the way we think, from our first days of play to the last time we cast our vote. Turnbull is a passionate critic of the contemporary American political system, and explains why toys are central to his work: ‘Force fed on violence, abused by a controlling superpower and blackmailed through patriotism, the public are ultimately as disposable as the toys they once played with’.

Visitor Information:

Lazarides Gallery
8 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4DG
Hours: Tues-Sat 11am-7pm
Admission: Free
Directions: Visit www.lazinc.com to download a pdf map with directions

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Posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 at 11:52 am by . See our copyright policy. Before commenting, please read our comments policy.

  • http://www.atelier-ad.blogspot.com Michelle

    Its always exciting to see art with the ability to incite and provoke. Clearly, Turnbull has some very strong opinions about the war in Iraq, American Domination, and gun cultures. Personally, I think it would be great to show this as a traveling show where even more people could be exposed.
    All this said, who said ‘A second group of works comment on the violence and paranoia created by the gun culture at the core of American life’. Was it dezeen or Turnbull himself? Because for all of the clever parodying and political exposure… This comment seems more carelessly presumptive than based in thought or conjecture…

  • Andrew Toth

    When I first saw “every home should have one #3″ I though it was making a positive statement about using guns for personal defense. The piece could easily bee seen to convey that message. However like all the art relating to guns that I see, it is anti gun. I personally do not understand how other fellow artists can recognize the right to free speech but completely misunderstand the right to protect your own life. I find it interesting to see that you comment about the lengths politicians will go to in order to manipulate the way we think. That IS what is at the heart of the gun control movement , lie about the number of times good people use guns to defend themselves, the list goes on. the second amendment protects all your other rights you cherish, without it you would be a slave to the government not a citizen.

  • Bob

    Another anti-war, anti-imperialist artist. Is there something here that’s different from the artistic and intellectual conventional wisdom of the past four decades? If so, I can’t see it. Yawn.