Peace of Art


Written by Siobhan Morrin
16 Sunday 16th January 2011
With the protests about student fees and a general refrain of 'cuts' in the media, it’s easy to forget that the UK is heavily involved in two major conflicts worldwide. As part of ongoing efforts to change that, Peace Strike, the organisation camped out at Parliament Square has joined up with Art Below, an enterprise in public art to create attention-grabbing plinths for peace. Artists globally are invited to send work on the theme of peace, to be displayed on the plinths outside Westminster until January next year. Don’t Panic chatted to Ben Moore, the founder of Art Below, and Peace Strike spokesperson Maria Gallastegui to hear why.
Tell me a bit about this collaboration with Peace Strike. How did the project come about?
Ben Moore: Well it’s been going on a long time actually, back to when me and my brother, Simon Moore, started together five years ago. He’s now living a different style of life, an alternative living. He started Kew Eco Village and then developed the Democracy Village at Parliament Square. So I’ve been going there and got to know people like (long-time peace campaiger) Maria Gallastegui. She’s been living on the square as long as Brian Haw and she made these two massive plinths and put them there.
That’s where Art Below got involved. We aim to be a force for public art, but this we wanted to be Peace Strike, we didn’t want to infiltrate.
Parliament Gangsters
Westminster council isn’t a fan of them though…
BM: No, there’s been opposition, but Maria has the legal documents that prove her right to have those structures there.
Maria Gallastegui: Westminster Council is involved in trying to support the case the Government is in the process of making, regarding the outlawing of 24hr on-going demonstrations at Parliament Square.
The Plinth complies with the legislation at Parliament Square. The problem is that in its own right, the Plinth is a powerful statement and has great potential to push the boundaries of political expression to new heights. 
We welcome any criticism, as we feel that people will support the 'Power of the Plinth.’
DP: What do you aim to achieve with the project?
BM: All the protests going seem to be covered negatively. We wanted a creative means of putting a message across peacefully. With the art being there for two to four weeks it should affect people; a subliminal message that sinks in over time.
We get a lot of artists who are good at expressing the darkness of war. The challenge is to express peace in a visual form.
War- Easy and Safe - Rei Dishon
DP: How does the selection process work?
BM: Artists send their works to Art Below and then I discuss the best with Maria. It’s a joint project.
We’re open to displaying well-known artists as well as up and coming ones. Imagine something by Eine opposite the Houses of Parliament. Maybe just WIKI on one board and LEAKS on the other. It’s a sort of force, expressing a lot of passion in front of that big, beautiful building. Some of the pieces coming up will definitely capture the media’s attention.
Brits Behaving Badly - stuartgriffiths
DP: Are they controversial? 
BM: Extremely controversial. Though not in an aggressive, offensive way. Some artists confuse controversial with macabre. Peace Strike isn’t meant to be aggressive. We’re not offending passers-by.
It’s a bit like an alternative to the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square. We’re not opposed to performers at the plinths, like the Pink Stormtrooper from He’s about disarming yourself and freedom.
Peace of Pink - Artwars
DP: How do you see the role of public art? How do you think it affects people?
BM: I’ve sometimes wandered around art galleries where I’ve felt disillusioned. Disillusioned with the whole art scene. With Peace Strike we’re making artists think about something real going on in the world. Sometimes I think art can be too wrapped up, self-absorbed, having to be self-promoting…
My strengths are in ideas and concepts. I‘ll come up with an idea and get an expert in whatever it is to help me create it.
DP: Will you be displaying your own work on the plinths?
BM: I will, it’ll be an oil painting I’ve been collaborating on with someone. Other than that I can’t tell you anymore… 

If you'd like to submit a piece of art for consideration by Peace Strike, submit it here

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