With the #Brexit vote drawing nearer, British politics is virtually unavoidable in the media nowadays. Something vaguely political that caught our eye on the internet last week was a staged event ran by fine art student Lucie Carter. Unaware members of the public came to see a talk by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at Lancaster University but instead arrived to find a lowly cardboard box with his name sprawled across the side.
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Whilst attendees found the hoax fairly amusing, local Labour MP Cat Smith however wasn’t too impressed. In an interview with the Mirror she complained that:
People turned up at the event, Labour supporters and party members. They paid for parking and childcare, time off work, incurred an expense for an event that wasn’t happening. My frustration is I’ve got Jeremy coming to give a lecture at Lancaster in the autumn and I want people to turn up. I now worry people are going to see that and think it’s a hoax.
We decided to have a couple of words with Lucie about her latest art project, to find out how and why she decided to dupe a bunch of people with her box gag.
Why did you write Jeremy Corbyn’s name on a box?
Well the box was just one part of the entire artwork – the artwork being the event itself. After exploring Situationism, Fluxus and the element of play in culture, I decided to create a ‘happening’, an ‘event’, a purposeful hoax linking with previously explored ideas around the object and aesthetics. This was intended to utilise the element of play as a radical form of expression – radical in the sense that it is intended to challenge the way people think about art and the world.
Honestly the name choice was completely random, as it was the other boxes that I have as part of a sculptural installation for the same project. I think though if perhaps I’d have chosen someone different like Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé maybe the artwork wouldn’t have had the same effects that it did. Corbyn was known to be at the State Opening at Parliament on the day and the time of the event and so it was intended to be discovered that it wasn’t THE Mr Corbyn. People discovering that it was a hoax then created this ‘hype’ or this intrigue about what was going on. Although, this happened in a very very unexpected way and on a larger scale than I had anticipated. There’s something so authentic about creating an artwork in the moment that is so minimal, a situation that is just so not thought about in any depth – it leads for the event or the artwork to create itself.
Could you explain what “object-oriented ontology” is?
As one philosophy I applied throughout a lot of my artwork this year, Object Orientated Ontology is a branch of Speculative Realism. It promotes ideology that rejects the privileging of human existence over the existence of non-human objects, nothing has special status and everything exists equally. So for example, my ‘Johnny Depp’ box is an ‘object’ no longer being perceived by us as an ‘object’ but as a person. It’s defying the nature of what we naturally perceive and what we know about the world around us. I just wanted to play around with what I could create surrounding the philosophy. I’m no expert.
What were people’s reactions like when they came to the event, saw the box and found out that human being Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t actually going to be there?
Well on the day of the event I sat for a solid 45 minutes or so to see if anybody turned up and 2 did, but they arrived with knowledge that it wasn’t actually Jeremy Corbyn. A lot of people were very pissed off more so at the idea of it. People began commenting (on the numerous Facebook posts and on Twitter), some positive comments, some really negative comments. But this was a reaction nonetheless, a reaction that brought about many many questions about art, showing what people really think about it and highlighting the stigma against art as a degree.
Art is supposed to get under people’s skin and it’s supposed to challenge people’s thoughts, so I don’t view anything that happened negatively as controversial as it was. The whole ‘shock factor’ humorous kind of thing I was going for, it’s supposed to awaken the viewer.
Was it awkward?
Nothing about it was awkward – nothing is awkward unless you make it awkward.
Any word from Jeremy Corbyn himself?
Radio silence, I’ve not heard anything.
Are you planning on organising any other faux celebrity box events in the near future?
Who knows what’s next, I just know I’m going to steer clear of politics I think.
For anyone who was upset that they didn’t get to catch J-Corbz in action, maybe they should get their hands on a Glastonbury ticket instead where it’s rumoured he may have his own slot.