"Use your vote": Artists urge public to back general election 2015 campaigns

By Ben Miller | 11 March 2015

Art Fund takes over billboards to encourage first-timers as artists call on people to vote in May's general election

A photo of a man in a suit standing next to a woman at her door in an election campaign
Artist Gordon Shrigley is standing as a prospective member of parliament under the banner of Campaign© Gordon Shrigley
If there is nothing more to lure a first-time voter in with at this year’s general election, perhaps billboard prominence will suffice.

A new competition, seeking to add to works already created by Bob & Roberta Smith, Fatima Begum, Janette Parris and Jeremy Deller, will give one 18-23-year-old’s poll-powered artwork a place on commercial spaces from Kent to Tyneside.

Smith’s own campaign – the artist is running as a candidate in Michael Gove’s constituency of Surrey Heath – represents the second professional artist (as far as we know) running for parliament.

A photo of an election poster showing a man covered in medals against a turquoise backdrop
Gordon Shrigley, Cosmonaut (2015). Glclée print© Gordon Shrigley
Brandishing an almost impenetrably vague manifesto which admits to being entirely bereft of ideas, the artist Gordon Shrigley hopes to win a seat in Hackney South and Shoreditch, displacing the Labour MP Meg Hillier.

“I’m from your imagination, and I’m here to help”, reads one of Shrigley’s slogans for his dystopian vision of a futureless country.

“Real politics are the possession and distribution of politics”, says another, sealing the backing of the Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones, who believes Shrigley’s questions “probably resonate with more voters than the mainstream parties’ fake certainties.”

For their part, the artists taking part in the Art Fund-backed Art Happens scheme have come up with large designs reading “VOTE”.

“Political parties put up posters asking you to vote for them,” explains Deller, who has made out the word from the columns of Stonehenge.

“We are putting up posters just asking you to vote.

“Elections are a once-in-every-five-year opportunity for everyone to make a choice, and I think we should take the chance by the horns. Youth of Britain – rise up and vote.”

An image of a black and white election campaign posted showing a large cloud in a sky
One of the artist's persuasive election slogans© Gordon Shrigley
The four artists will be on a panel to decide the winner, who will also receive £500.

“If you’re an artist or interested in culture, you care about expressing yourself,” muses Matthew Couper, of the Vote Art project which will seek £10,000 in crowdfunding, offering a range of rewards including postcards and limited edition works.

“Surely one of the most basic but vital forms of self-expression is the act of voting and making a choice about the people who lead the country.

“We hope the artwork created will inspire people to vote, to think about creativity and to appreciate some outstanding creative practice.

“We have received funding from Arts Council England for the first tranche of the programme, which has allowed us to put up artwork around England.

“We’re working with the Art Fund to raise additional funds to put up posters around the whole of the UK. What we really need is people to spread the word.”

Click on the picture to see a gallery of the artists' designs

Artist Jessica Voorsanger, whose canvassing abilities became clear during her candidacy as a Museums at Night artist, is supporting the campaign.

“It's still relevant to be reminded that something that we take for granted isn't always being allowed by one group or another,” she believes.

“When people have fought so hard over the years to be able to have a voice, let's not squander ours by not voting.

“This is an important message. Every vote counts.”

At least 10,000 postcards will be distributed around arts venues across the country, with an exhibition of the project’s work in London and a party on election night, on May 7, when the display will close. Shrigley and Smith may well be toasting their charismatic rise to power by then.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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