Christopher Spencer’s exhibition at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall has been extended till Thursday – sustained, it seems, by an inexhaustible font of outrage.
You, Me & Cold War Steve (The International Exhibition of the People) brings together three years’ scorn (2019–21) in the form of 50 artfully manipulated photomontages.
Spencer’s style draws on Hieronymus Bosch’s eye for infernal detail, and the exuberant savagery of Hogarth and Gillivray.
His targets are mostly today’s right-wing politicians and their policies and media apologists on both sides of the Atlantic. He revels in their perceived venality, selfishness, lies, spin, complacency, and incompetence.
The objects of his disapproval are skewered in unflattering and merciless detail, often depicted naked and enfolded by rolls of fat. They appear unaware of their own failings. They are impervious to doubt, and incapable of self-reflection.
Spencer’s cast of principal villains shifts in response to the news agenda (see approximate figures below for the most frequent depictions), but there are also regular walk-on parts for Andrew Neil, Piers Morgan, Rupert Murdoch, and Steve Bannon. Philip Schofield recurs everywhere as a figure of vapid cheerfulness
Throughout, for no apparent reason, actor Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell in East Enders) is a permanent presence; a kind of latter-day Dante, touring Hell with a disapproving scowl.
Some critics find the work rich in indignation, poor on nuance, lacking clear lines of argument to substantiate a social conscience. They have a point. The collection is, however, appalling fun.—AM
The exhibition runs until Thursday 14 October, 10am–5pm, but many of the images are also available to view and share here.