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Bob and Roberta Smith, You Should Be In Charge

Patrick Brill discusses his latest art project that rallies for a new and more vibrant democracy

A vehement sense of fairness underpins the latest works by artist Patrick Brill, aka Bob and Roberta Smith. A current group show curated by Smith at The New Art Gallery, Walsall aims to challenge a traditional view in art that the male artist has some special insight into the mind of his female muse, while his own exhibition, 'You Should Be in Charge', at Work Gallery, asks the public to consider how accurately they are represented in Parliament. Ahead of the opening of 'You Should Be In Charge', Patrick Brill talks about art’s power to instigate such change and how he plans to show his support to protesters in London on March 26.

Dazed Digital: So, who should be in charge?
Patrick Brill:
Well, we’ve got a book coming out called ‘I Should Be In Charge’. I Should Be In Charge sounds incredibly hubristic and the idea really is that you should be in charge, people should grab hold of democracy and use it more stridently. The idea behind the show is to try to promote a more accurate and vibrant democracy.

DD: What would that democracy look like?
Patrick Brill:
I was thinking sort of a more extreme version of Harriet Harman’s idea to get 50 per cent women in the shadow cabinet; I think we ought to have real representation. It should be about the groups of people who live in society. We’ve made a print based on that, and one of the themes of this exhibition is true proportional representation, so 50 per cent of parliament would be women, about 25 per cent of them would be Black or Asian, about 5 per cent would be disabled, and one in four of all of them would be touched by mental illness in some way.  And you can go on down that road, and that would be a good thing. If you can do that in parliament, which actually is about representation, then it might filter through to other parts of life.

DD: Do you think it would be possible to put something like this into practice?
Patrick Brill:
I think it seems impossible because no one has any vision in parliament. If people said, ‘This is what we want”, it would happen. There are lots of arguments against it, but the exhibition and the campaign are here to highlight it and ask the question, would it be a good idea? I do think it could be possible and I do think it would be a good thing.

DD: How useful is art in instigating a change like this?
Patrick Brill:
Art is politics and politics is art. Art is about influencing people. It’s not always about telling people what to think, it’s about asking people to think. Art is incredibly important. You have a lot more power than you think and if lots of people get engaged with an idea then it can bring about change. It’s not that artists have a particular insight that other people don’t have but art is part of a huge conversation. I think it can have an effect.

DD: Will you be marching in London on Saturday the 26?
Patrick Brill
: Yes, what I’m going to do is I’m setting up my exhibition and I’m making a banner that says, “Culture Bashing And Book Burning”, and it’s going to have a painting of flames coming out the top of it. I’m going to be setting that up in Kings Cross in the morning, and then I’m going to nip down. I’m going to be a bit of a passenger, I’m not one of the main instigators at all but I want to show my solidarity.

'You Should Be In Charge', a body of work by Bob and Roberta Smith, is at WORK, Acton Street, London, April 1 to June 3. The exhibition coincides with a monograph by Bob and Roberta Smith, I Should Be In Charge, published by Black Dog Publishing.