A Balloon for Britain

We are struggling through the worst depression in living memory, with a new economic crisis emerging every day. Thank goodness someone has come up with an idea to lift all our spirits and encourage regeneration – giant party balloons to be floated over our ten most deprived towns

We are struggling through the worst depression in living memory, with a new economic crisis emerging every day. Thank goodness someone has come up with an idea to lift all our spirits and encourage regeneration – giant party balloons to be floated over our ten most deprived towns.




The proposal for A Balloon For Britain will feature in Scott King‘s new show, Finish The Work That You’ve Started, at the Herald St gallery in London. “I imagine myself to be a government employed ‘think-tank’ that has come up with the idea of floating gigantic party balloons (low level) over Britain’s ten poorest towns and cities in order to lift flagging spirits and encourage re-generation,” he says of the idea.

King’s typically satirical comment (see more of his work here) on the use of Public Art in Britain is certainly timely as the country gears up for the Olympics. “Ever since the completion of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North government and local councils [have come to believe] that if ‘we have one of those’, then poverty, crime and unemployment will, if not cease, at least be tackled in a highly visible way. These public art works, in their minds, become talismen of A New Hope … they see these huge art works as effectively re-branding exercises, but they do not tackle the real issues. To use a cliche of marketing/PR speak, they do not see that huge monumental sculpture … tourist attractions … are only ‘band-aid’ solutions. Yes, vintage clothing shops, small galleries, and latte cafes do open up in the shadow of this art works, but they aren’t a real cure for poverty, unemployment and – well – an essential lack of manufacturing industries … or jobs.”




Is public art, then, largely a waste of time? “I’m not sure,” King says. “In many ways the term is an oxymoron. The public are never consulted in what public art work they are given. This is left to a ‘specialist elite’ – local councillors, artists, the Arts Council etc. In many ways this is what I was trying to say with my Lee Brilleaux statue proposal . We were asking people to vote, to say if they would like a 300ft statue of [former Dr Feelgood frontman] Lee Brilleaux on Southend sea front – and over 1000 people said they would. No such democratic process was ever undertaken with Anish Kapoor’s ‘Temenos’ in Middlesbrough – nor with his ‘ArcelorMittal’ tower in Stratford … in fact if we are to believe the ‘instant folklore’ of Boris Johnson’s PR machine, then the ArcelorMittal tower came into existence through a chance meeting Boris had with Lakshmi Mittal (Brtian’s richest man, and steel magnate) in a toilet.”


King’s show will also feature Long Live Death (above), a proposal to relocate Gormley’s Angel of the North to Trafalgar Square: “That image came about in its first form when I was working on a CRASH! project with Matt Worley – the project was called  ‘A Better Britain’, and in it we imagine ourselves taking over the whole of the UK ‘internal budget’ and spending it on tinpot schemes that we created in the pub – so ‘Long Live Death’ was an idea to bring Angel of the North to the south, essentially because we felt it was wasted in the north. Other schemes included building a motorway called ‘Motorhead 76’ which followed the route of an early Motorhead tour – everything in the way of M76 would be bulldozed and it had no bends or roundabouts – but it did connect Purley to Bolton. We also planned to put a 200ft tall statue of Brian May on top of Buckingham Palace: to commemorate his seminal 2002 ‘Party at the Palace’ gig, where he played on the Queen’s roof. Oh, and finally we were going to invade Iceland in revenge for the Cod Wars of the mid-70s … this, we hoped would bring the British population together by identifying and colonising a common enemy.”

In addition, King says, the show wil also include “the usual stuff about the sadness of popular music”.


Finish The Work That You’ve Started is at the Herald St gallery from June 2 to July 7.


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