Brexit Art Machine: 'Everyone's just shouting at each other – but art binds people together, doesn't it?'
- David Pollock
- 26 March 2019
Artist Denny Hunter's vintage vending machine is touring the UK, dispensing works by artists responding to Brexit
'It would be rude not to do this, really,' says artist Denny Hunter, as he proudly shows off his Brexit Art Machine next to the front door of the Scottish Parliament on a bright but breezy Monday morning in March. In five days' time, we were told, the UK would be leaving the EU one way or another… until a few days ago, when the exit date was shifted by a couple of weeks, or possibly a couple of months.
Yet Hunter still plans to tie his 'machine' – actually a reconditioned 1970s pub cigarette vending machine, repainted in Royal Mail red – to its trolley and catch the next train to Manchester, where he'll meet Mancunian screenprint guerrilla Mancsy and find a spot to sell more art on the city's streets. For the price of either a pound coin or a Euro (check the exchange rate first, if you really want to pinch pennies), you get a small brown cardboard box of 'Brexit Art' at random, by one of forty-two artists involved.
'We had a piece by Unskilled Worker, although that went today,' says Hunter, who has 'served' twenty people in the hour he's been standing here among a smattering of tourists. 'Magda Archer, who is an amazing street artist; Jake and Dinos Chapman, who have signed a box and filled it with some objects; and Hello the Mushroom, who's a famous Shoreditch street artist. We were going to have Jeremy Deller too, but his work is in transit at the moment. Some are original artworks, some are numbered editions.'
This whole project grew out of Artobotic, a series of art vending machine installations which Hunter has created, and which have popped up in venues including bars, barber shops and public telephone boxes, as well as one resident at the moment in Edinburgh's City Art Centre; with these machines, for ten pounds, customers can take their chance on walking away with a piece by an artist like the Chapman Brothers or Ai WeiWei. Hunter is friends with John Byrne's artist daughter Celie, who runs Artobotic in Fife, and who introduced him to fellow Fife resident and enthusiastic Brexit Art Machine promoter Phill Jupitus.
'A lot of people don't want to walk into an art gallery, but this project brings art to them,' says Hunter, 'I'm from a working class background in Edinburgh, and I used to walk past these galleries on Dundas Street and though I would quite like to go in, but I believed they weren't the thing for me. With this machine I want to democratise art, to offer a portal of accessibility. To make it easy for everyone.'
Brexit Art Machine is born of the same idea, and although the artwork we got for our Euros were decidedly down on two of the Brexit drama/farce's key players (a miniature of Theresa May in Day of the Dead facepaint by the Portuguese, East London-based Hello the Mushroom, and a spoof take on Boris Johnson by Essex painter Kirstie Taylor), Hunter isn't here to take easy shots. 'I want to take it to people who are pro-Brexit and who are anti-Brexit,' he says, 'and to try and create dialogue between those people. We don't have that at the moment – everyone's atomised at the moment, it's a very divisive subject, and we live in such instantaneous times that everyone's just shouting at each other. But art binds people together, doesn't it?'
At the moment, says Hunter, talks are ongoing with the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art in Parliament as to whether the Machine might actually be allowed into Parliament. Thanks to Theresa May, however, a response now isn't quite as urgent. 'They're all a bit busy right now,' says Hunter, 'but hopefully I hear from them soon.'
Brexit Art Machine is making its way to Westminster through various UK cities until Fri 29 Mar. See social media for more details.