SWINDLE is a new piece of self initiated work for 2012 that is brought to life by its context and through interaction with people. The lettering is inspired by typography from the graphic designer Jamie Reid, who created iconic artwork for the Sex Pistols. We have employed a low-tech, hand-made approach consistent with the DIY aesthetic of punk to make 3-D lettering using cardboard and papier mache with wheat paste.
The work references the feature film and recording The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, that puports to tell the story of how the Sex Pistols and their manager conned record labels out of large amounts of money in the late 1970’s. Their attempts to ‘get one over’ the record labels seem simplistic in retrospect, but looking back helps illuminate how dominant the corporations are who control the music industry now and how unlikely such an escapade would be today. Since the credit crunch and the far reaching economic recession, the word ‘swindle’ is now common parlance and far from being associated with political radicals is mainstream terminology. Many people feel they have been swindled and are suffering the effects of it in their daily lives. A line from the movie spoken by John Lydon at the end of a concert in America seems to sum it up ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated…?’
We started creating the architectural letters through public workshops that were part of Birmingham’s Olympic Torch Relay celebrations. We were based at the Mailbox shopping centre and we started by making the word WIN during drop-in workshops using recycled and household materials. The workshops were suitable for all ages and abilities and everyone who took part could be involved in the whole making process, from constructing the 3-D cardboard letter-forms to covering them in papier mache and lastly priming and painting them. As we used two layers of papier mache for strength we employed the technique of alternating the colour of the newspaper used for each layer, to differentiate between them more easily, the Financial Times with it’s distinctive pink colouring was ideal and wholly appropriate for this purpose! With special thanks to everyone who took part, thanks also to Asda for donating the cardboard and Coco Cola for sponsoring the event and supplying branded volunteers!
We then had just a few weeks to make the rest of the letters to form the word Swindle, ready to display as part of Worcester’s Fourth Plinth project on 12th July 2012. Museums Worcestershire initiated Worcester’s Fourth Plinth project, where contemporary artists took over a newly vacated space in the historic Museum building for a month. The space was formerly occupied by the library which has now moved to a brand new building called the Hive. From Monday 25 June four plinths adorned the space, with three using stone busts of local historic figures from the museum’s collection to look back to the founding of the Worcester Museum and Library building more than 100 years ago. The fourth and biggest plinth was bravely offered to artists who had the freedom to share their creative ideas with visitors in whatever format they wanted. A wide variety of creative people took up residence on the Fourth Plinth in a project inspired by artist Anthony Gormley’s One and Other which took place on the empty fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2009.
Visitors were invited to have their photos taken on Worcester’s Fourth Plinth along with the word SWINDLE. They were able to rearrange the letters to create any other word they wanted or could just choose a particular letter to be pictured with. The rest of the letters had to remain on the plinth at all times and the person or people who re-arranged them would also place themselves on the plinth for a photo. Photographer Theodora Pangos captured about 25 different words and poses during the day, with visitors ranging from individuals to couples, families and children and even some of the Museum staff. It was inspiring was to see how many different interpretations there were, using the same limited means and how creative people were by improvising new letters and words and in how they chose to physically interact with the letters. Although the plinth was just a few inches high it provided a kind of stage and with a photographer present and sometimes an audience of onlookers, so some of the interactions turned into mini performances!
A week later we presented Swindle at Warwick Bar Fete, on a longer plinth and in a quite different setting, again we were surprised to see many new words and poses coming out of the same set of letters. It looks like SWINDLE could run and run!