When considering what to supply for a project that is first and foremost concerned with encouraging debate and engagement around the UK’s future within Europe and not necessarily about framing or encouraging any one side of the argument, its form and content instantly became one and the same. The billboard as a carrier of messages and signs is being actively subverted here, re-purposed for the act of contemplation, outside of any traditional ‘seduce and destroy’ application or the visceral bias of party politics come election time. I haven’t seen the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ campaign’s respective billboards as of yet, but I am sure they are using them to their fullest to successfully instil a climate of fear and doubt from both sides of the fence.
I wanted to embody the confusion and disorientation that for the voter, no matter their position, is part and parcel of a complex debate such as this. In a heartbeat I was transported back to the last conversation I had surrounding the possible outcome. This was just under two months ago, where I had temporarily returned to the UK for my Nan’s surprise 90th birthday. The family member in question of whom I was having this conversation with will remain nameless, that’s not important in this context, but what I came away with after the encounter had finished most definitely was.
The overawing sense of insecurity was palpable to say the least. It physically left me sad. Every other sentence was truncated and marshalled, like a river or stream bypassed for irrigation with its destination fully predetermined. “At the end of the day…” and “I’m not being funny…” were the two sets of words I was left holding onto – repeated so many times that they lost all meaning. They were hollowed out, whittled into linguistic tools for what debate there was, to then be battered unconscious with.
It felt right to use them to construct my billboard around, to use them to represent the slipperiness of the moment. I wanted to retake them for myself and inject them with the potential to be read in more than one way. To make them stand for more than just one reading – a statement, a joke, a misunderstanding, an apology? – In the end a simple alignment and disregard of grammar was all that was needed to obtain this feeling.
No matter how many times I read the sentence back to myself I am left none the wiser.
Photo by Michael Fitzgerald
Mat Do, 1982, born in Essex, UK – currently lives and works in Rotterdam where he is enrolled on the Fine Art MA programme at the Piet Zwart Institute.
Recent exhibitions and projects include: Here, Glasgow International, Cutting leaves for Dogs, Tale of a Tub Rotterdam, Sender Sumpf, Künstlerhäuser Worpswede (DE) and Medusa, DKUK/Ancient & Modern London.
Since 2003 he has worked with institutions and organisations including: Grizedale Arts, Cumbria (UK), Tate Britain and Whitechapel Gallery. His work is featured in public and private collections including the New Art Gallery Walsall and Channel 4.