Bad Breeding collaborates with Peter Kennard on album art

The prolific photomontage artist has dug into his archive to source pieces for a scathing new album by hardcore group Bad Breeding

Contempt album cover

British hardcore-punk band Bad Breeding has collaborated with photomontage artist Peter Kennard on the artwork for their new album, Contempt. Described as “one of the year’s best punk records” by Kerrang magazine, Contempt spotlights social and environmental issues in the UK and abroad through the band’s signature anarchic sound.

Hoping to reflect this messaging in the album’s artwork, the band reached out to Kennard, who is known for his anti-war pieces (an extensive exhibition of his work is coming soon to London’s Whitechapel Gallery). “We’d all been big admirers of Peter’s work since being introduced to it through older punk records and also his contributions to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament movement,” says the group.

“For us it’s always been important to work with people who are invested beyond self-serving platitudes and who also share an opposition to the capital interests that have become sewn into the fabric of art.”

During this process, the band visited Kennard in his studio in London and spent hours going through his archive of photomontage work in search of imagery that could resonate with their songs. After refining their selection, they eventually settled on an artwork Kennard made in 1986 of the Sellafield Nuclear Power Reactor in England. “[It has] an unfinished quality that feels like a visual equivalence to their album,” explains Kennard. “It’s never been reproduced before, maybe because of that roughness and it feels like it’s been sitting for many years in my archive waiting for Bad Breeding to make a great angry howl about the state of the nation.”

The artwork itself employs Kennard’s trademark photomontage technique to bring together a photo of the reactor, a photo of a human skull, iron filings, and a cut out map showing the contours of Great Britain. The result is a dark and austere artwork, rich in form and texture but pared back to highlight the connection between Sellafield and the harm to human health and the environment that its nuclear contents pose.

Artwork by Peter Kennard featured in the zine accompanying Contempt

“It attempts to reveal a [country] gasping in poverty and radioactivity,” Kennard says. “At the time it was made, radioactive waste was sent to Sellafield from countries all over the world for reprocessing, [and] it now lies in giant vats covered in concrete without anybody having a clue about how it could be made safe. But at least it was a profitable business!”

“Coming across Peter’s 1986 work that depicted Sellafield, one of Europe’s most toxic nuclear cesspits, felt like a poignant image both when it was made and also in how it serves as a representation of current conditions in the UK,” the band adds. “A nation haunted by its history and with very little vision of how to construct a future free from the ghosts of its past; a landscape stuck in permanent retrograde and continually looking terminally to tradition and supposed former glories.”

Artwork by Peter Kennard featured in the zine accompanying Contempt

The album release also involves a lyric poster, as well as a zine bringing together impassioned essays on the state of the nation. The zine is another collaboration with Kennard, using his images from the 1960s and 1970s that protested the Vietnam War and shone a light on the civil rights movement in the US.

To create these artworks, Kennard overlaid photographs of the events and added graphic marks on acetate to try to “represent state power and resistance in a kind of Rorschach test of imagery that had to be untangled by the viewer”. He continues: “They work with Bad Breeding’s music. The listener and viewer have to work at disentangling forms and facts from the chaos of everyday fictions spewed out by the power brokers.”

Contempt by Bad Breeding is out on June 14 on One Little Independent;