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Martin Firrell at the Museum of Modern Art
Jacob Kaucher
2019
DE
1,687,936 Views
Martin Firrell
British, born Paris France. 1963
Martin Firrell is a British public artist whose works challenge unjust power systems of all kinds, including patriarchal power, the oppression of women and non-heterosexuals, and the heteronormative status quo. He uses language to engage directly with the public, provoking dialogue about more equitable social organisation. The artist's reported aim is 'to make the world more humane'. His work has been summarised as 'art as debate'.
View full Wikipedia entry
98 artworks online
Curated by
Barbara Ulbrist + Dr. Christiane Kunz
Wikidata
Q6775431
Power Is Always Temporary
2007
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Royal Opera House, July 2007

Power Is Always Temporary
explores the opera-like, but real-life, experiences of jealousy, infidelity and violence in the lives of women.
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They'll Find You Nude
2007
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Royal Opera, July 2007

In a military conflict, women and children are particularly at risk.
They'll Find You Nude
describes the disruption of domestic life and the ever-present risk of violence or uninvited sexual attention experienced by one woman during a military coup.
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Embrace Lesbianism and
Overthrow the Social Order
2017
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July 2017

Radical Lesbian feminists of the 60s and 70s suggested there was only one way for a woman to escape male control: embrace lesbianism as a political rather than a personal act. Feminists argued this would undermine the social structures that traditionally place men at the top of the social hierarchy.
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Beware of Boys
2021
Medium
Found footage (b&w, sound)

Duration
1:06

Anti LGBT+ propaganda from the 1960s is re-edited to lampoon its message that homosexuality is a mental disorder. The artist reverses the roles of the two main characters so it is the young hitchhiker whose 'illness' prompts him to take advantage of a wholly reasonable and friendly driver.
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Overturn Male Supremacy
2017
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July 2017

In
Overturn Male Supremacy
the artist is re-stating a demand originally made by gay activists in the 1960s. This, and five other demands from gay liberationists, were presented nationally by the artist to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.
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Homosexuals and Women
2017
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July 2017

Activists from the Gay Liberation Front argued that the oppression of women and gay men was a by-product of rigidly enforced gender roles. They noted, for example, that the gender role of masculinity was linked historically with domination, oppression and violence.
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How To Be Popular
2021
Medium
Found footage (b&w, sound)

Duration
1:22

A 1947 public information film advises young people how to be popular, largely by conforming to conventional gender roles and parental authority. The artist reorganises the material to subvert the heteronormative assumptions of the film's narration, queering the protagonists so that the 'boy meets girl' story takes a distinctly different turn.
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Still Revolting
2020
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK October 2020


Homosexuals Are Still Revolting
is a play on a protest placard made by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell for 1973's London Gay Pride. The artist's large-format digital billboards commemorated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Gay Liberation Front in the UK by stressing that the struggle for full LGBT+ equality is not yet over.
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Moustache and Leopard Skin
2020
Girl on Girl
2020
Arcadia
2020
Valerie Solanas Shoots Artist
2021
Medium
Manipulated Newsprint

Displayed
UK June 2021

When radical feminist theorist Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, the newspaper headline read
Andy Warhol Shot by Actress.
The reporting was lazy and inaccurate. Here, the artist corrects the historical news story, at the same time shifting the main point of reference from Warhol to Solanas. He refers to Solanas by her full name, reflecting her importance as a key figure in radical feminism and relegating Warhol to anonymous target, albeit describing him accurately as an
artist.
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A Moral Idea (with Clare Short)
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK July to August 2019

Based on conversations between the artist and Clare Short (Secretary of State for International Development 1997-2003), the artworks in the
Union City
series explore the moral content of socialism.
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Immoral Flaws
2019
All Members of Society
2019
Secure Employment
2019
Equality for Women
2019
Safety at Work
2019
Cooperative Society
2019
3 Billboards for Blair Peach
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK April 2019

3 billboards for Blair Peach set out to commemorate a man who opposed racism even though he was not, himself, from an ethnic minority background.
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Filth
2021
Medium
Found footage (b&w, sound)

Duration
0:38

A 1946 public information film warns against the concentration of media power into a few hands, and the dangers of censorship. Simultaneously, the artist's reorganisation of the material (and addition of subliminal elements) subverts any possibility of control or censorship.
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Counter Culture Rising
2020
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2020

Counter Culture Rising
is the artist's response to Trumpism, Brexit and the populist movement. The artworks recall the key tenets of hippy philosophy as an antidote to troubled times.
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The Earth's Crust
2020
War Is Coming
2020
Computers Control Opinion
2020
Telepathic Transit
2020
Super Consciousness
2020
Alice B. Toklas
2020
Self Portrait (on Fire Island)
2021
Medium
Colour gif from 16mm film

Whether or not this is an image of the artist is difficult to determine. It seems more likely that
Self Portrait (on Fire Island)
is intended as an ironic comment of the modern idea of the selfie, body consciousness and the LGBT+ community.
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Monograph
2020
Medium
Casebound and paperback book

Published
Zurich Books 2020

Curator Barbara Ulbrist surveys the art of Martin Firrell focusing on the years 2018-2020. During this time the artist displayed 40 different artworks on billboards across the UK bringing his particular variety of 'art as debate' to the majority of the country's towns and cities.
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All Men Are Dangerous
2006
Medium
Projection

Displayed
Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, February 2006

All Men Are Dangerous
was created for the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain at a time when wars were ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both conflicts were widely held to be colonially motivated and against international law.
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Power and Gender / Men
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2019

Power and Gender / Men
examines the changing archetype of masculinity, the impact of social conditioning on men's emotional responses, and the characteristics of power when held by men rather than women.
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All Men Are Dangerous
2019
It's Easy to Be Angry
2019
The Great Heroes
2019
A Good Man (with Justin Cochrane)
2019
Men Are Really Great
2019
It's Back to Burt Reynolds
2019
Power and Gender / Women
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2019

Power and Gender / Women
was developed in conversation with five women who have experience of power in business, political, or public life. The series examines the difference between the way women and men gain, hold and use power.
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Ugly Sweaty Men (with Inga Beale)
2019
When Men Hold Power (with Annie Rickard)
2019
Distorted Power (with Clare Short)
2019
The Simple Idea (with Alex Mahon)
2019
Women Make Up Half (with Liv Garfield)
2019
All Power Is Temporary
2019
Ugly Sweaty Men (with Inga Beale)
2019
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
UK January to March 2019

Inga Beale, former Chief Executive of Lloyd's, the world's oldest insurance market, maintains that double standards still apply to men and women. Men are judged by what they can do. Women are still judged first by the way they look.
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Beautiful
2021
Medium
Found footage (colour, sound)

Duration
0:21

A doll is described as
beautiful
17 times in 30 seconds in this 1960s commercial. The artist has re-edited the footage, removing every word except
beautiful
, satirising the idea that a woman's value is determined by the way she looks.
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Trans Story
2016
Medium
Digital video billboards

Displayed
UK August 2016

Trans Story
describes the realisation of one trans woman's identity in her own words. The artwork examines the principle that if all identities are constructed, then all identities are, at root, equal. Less usual identity constructions are no different. They are simply less usual.
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All Identity Is Constructed
2016
Medium
Digital video billboards

Displayed
UK August 2016

All Identity
weighs the premise that every identity is a construction, without exception. Some identities may be less usual than others but all are equally and arbitrarily invented.
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The Hero We've Been Sold Is a Brute
British Army 2009
Medium
Projection

Displayed
British Army Guards' Chapel UK November 2009

The media promote a one-dimensional cardboard cutout of a hero: film and television are full of nightmare visions / erotic dreams in which masculinity, sex, domination and violence are conflated. Complete Hero presents an alternative, plural definition of heroism seen through the eyes of military personnel, scientists, artists and philosophers.
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War Is Always A Failure
British Army 2009
Medium
Projection

Displayed
British Army Guards' Chapel UK November 2009

In
War Is Always a Failure
the artist reflects on conversations about the nature of warfare with British philosopher A.C. Grayling and military personnel in the British Army.
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I Want to Live in a City Where
No One Is Sent to War
2006
Medium
Projection

Displayed
National Gallery UK July 2006

I Want to Live in a City Where
presents a wish-list of liberal policies as digital projections onto the facade of the National Gallery of Great Britain. The series comprises an ambitious, artist-led agenda for civic agitation and renewal.
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No One Is Sent to War
2006
Violence Never Works
2006
No One Has to Be Afraid of Standing Out
2006
Fires of London
2016
Medium
Projection

Displayed
National Theatre, September 2016

Fires of London
commemorates the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Fire is projected onto the dome of St Paul's in waves of colour consistent with flame of increasing temperatures (from dull orange to yellow to blue to brilliant white).
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He's Gay, He's Dead
2016
Medium
Projection

Displayed
National Theatre, September 2016

He's Gay, He's Dead
refers to the suicide of British footballer Justin Fashanu in 1998. Fashanu hung himself in a disused garage, aged just 37.
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He's Hanging in a Shed
2016
Medium
Projection

Displayed
National Theatre, September 2016

He's Hanging in a Shed
quotes from a homophobic chant, taken up by Ipswich football supporters against Justin Fashanu:
He's gay, he's dead, he's hanging in a shed
. Fashanu's suicide was the catalyst for football's ongoing campaign against homophobia.
More
Lesbians Are Out!
2016
Medium
Projection

Displayed
National Theatre, September 2016

In 1988, four women abseiled into the House of Lords shouting, 'Lesbians Are Out!' They were protesting against Clause 28 which effectively demonised LGBT lives. 21 years later, MPs admitted that the law was offensive and unacceptable.
More
The Question Mark Inside
2008
Medium
Projection

Displayed
St Paul's Cathedral, November 2008

The Question Mark Inside
asked theologians, scientists, artists, atheists, and the general public, 'What makes your life meaningful?' Wildly diverse answers, from the domestic to the sexual to the sublime, were projected onto the Dome, West Front and Whispering Gallery to mark the cathedral's 300th anniversary.
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sun not despair (schematic)
2008
sun (in arabic)
2008
what makes life meaningful
2008
I Don't Think This Is What God Intended
2008
The Taking of Christ (Carravagio)
2008
A kiss
2008
Organised Religion Makes Me Uneasy
2008
A Nail
2008
The road to freedom (after Willa Cather)
2008
Design for st Paul's shop paper bags
2008
Life reaches out to life (arabic)
2008
Artist's maquette for test projections
2008
Gender Think-In
2017
Medium
Think-in

Displayed
Lloyd's of London UK, 29 June 2017

The artist invited 200 senior leaders in business, culture and policy to a Think-In, designed to question traditional gender roles and modelled on the consciousness-raising think-ins pioneered by the Gay Liberation Front in the early 1970s.
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Speakers
2017
Ballot
2017
Participants
2017
Black Is the Gravity that
Tethers the Luminous World
2020-21
Medium
Digital billboards, various dimensions

Displayed
Switzerland, July and September 2020, March 2021

The Chromatika
is a new psychological theory of colour for the 21st Century, created by the artist in response to Goethe's
Zur Farbenlehre / Theory of Colours
and Rudolf Steiner's writings on colour.
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Red travels most easily through
the hot, thin atmosphere
2020
Violet bears an ominous
resemblance to "violent"
2020
Orange suggests other realities
between red and yellow
2020
Yellow is an instance of happiness
speeding to its own end
2020
Indigo is measureless as the uniform
blue-black of the deep pacific
2020
Blue contains all the longing
a human being is capable of
2020
Green Is Savage Still as The
Monstrous Fern Forests of Prehistory
2021
White is a desolation,
a non-state like a blank mind
2021
Grey is an Ambiguous
No-Man's Land, a half knowing
2021
The One Irreducible Truth
2005
Medium
Digital billboard

Displayed
London railway stations December 2005

The artist paraphrases the renowned American sex researcher Alfred Kinsey as he famously concluded that difference in human sexuality was the only universal constant.
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For Your Information (fyi)
2021
Medium
Colour gif from 16mm film

For Your Information (fyi)
is a 6 frame gif drawn from a 1959 US military information film. The film deals with nuclear testing and the need for strict secrecy if the enemies of America are to be kept at bay. In this repurposed form, the artist uses the same messaging to question the value of any information contained in his own artworks. He is, in effect, saying, 'Ignore anything I say here. Make up your own mind.'
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