Revolutionary art that ripped into Britain’s national identity at a time of crisis: immigration, poverty, hunger, job conditions and unemployment had the nation on a knife-edge. Any of that sound familiar? Reid not only defined the punk spirit, he changed our cultural iconography forever. And in politically and culturally conflicted times for the UK it resonates loudly today.
In his newer work the self-styled ‘socialist druid’ weaves anti-war and ethical causes, and in a major new exhibition, Jamie Reid XXXXX: 50 Years of Subversion and the Spirit, nature and spiritualitysit alongside the spit and venom of punk. And in today’s turbulent times Reid warns we’d better brace ourselves: things will definitely get worse for Britain before they get better.
“When Pussy Riot were arrested in Moscow I did a poster for them. I met up with them in Liverpool, had a fantastic day with them and it made me think again about art and direction and how fucking brave Pussy Riot are. I’m a big football fan and when they ran on the pitch at the World Cup final it just dawned on me what a load of shite the World Cup had become. Their bravery and what they’ve done with their art is just amazing, better than shredding things in bloody auctions and making them double in value.”
“It’s hard, but there’s still got to be direct action and popular protest, such as Occupy London, who I worked with. Since Thatcherism that’s almost been made illegal because of the whole illusion of terrorism, which I think the establishment’s behind anyway to an extent.”
“If Banksy was to give all his money to the homeless it’d be brilliant. That shredding was a comment on capitalism I think. But I can’t believe he’s into that moneymaking art world scene. I think more about actual radical direct art; like when during the first Gulf War the [prankster Daniel Finegood] changed the Hollywood sign to say ‘Oil War’, that’s pretty radical. Banksy’s just part of that whole Brit Art thing, a continuation of people like Damien Hirst. It’s like when Saatchi & Saatchi helped get Thatcher into power, they created this so-called ‘shock art’, and there’s nothing remotely shocking about any of that stuff.
It’s just a means to make money. There’s so much radical and underground art in this country, but there’s a whole monopoly in the arts scene, between critics, galleries and artists and they all socialise together. It’s so incestuous you wouldn’t believe it.”