Power & Public Space 5: Mark Wallinger – State Britain

Matthew Blunderfield and Mark Wallinger

Power & Public Space is a podcast from Drawing Matter and the Architecture Foundation hosted by Matthew Blunderfield. You can find the full podcast series here. Or listen now:

Much of Mark Wallinger’s art exists in public space. He’s made films and performance pieces set in tube stations and airports, and was the first artist to occupy the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 1999. 

In this episode, Wallinger discusses the installation ‘State Britain’, which reconstructs a protest encampment originally erected in Parliament Square by the peace activist Brian Haw (in opposition to UK foreign policy in Iraq). The encampment was dismantled in 2006 under a new decree called ‘The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act’, effectively drawing a 1km radius around parliament within which unauthorised protests are prohibited. 

This protest exclusion zone happens to run right through the middle of Tate Britain, where Wallinger faithfully reconstructed Haw’s encampment, placing it literally half in and half out of this threshold of controlled expression, with the line itself clearly marked on the floor. The installation was both a continuation of Haw’s protest, as well as an artwork about it, and the line it traced became a kind of territorial drawing, marking a disputed boundary around what can be said in opposition to political authority, as well where, and in what context, we can say it. 

A poster promoting the ‘State Britain’ installation by Mark Wallinger (2007), illustrating the 1km radius around Parliament Square where unauthorised protests had been declared illegal following the passing of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.