A Birmingham-based artist has created a new purpose-built work based on Dominic Cummings infamous Durham visit during lockdown.
Islington to Barnard Castle via Durham – A Public Text Piece, saw Sam Edward, currently completing his MA in Arts and Education Practices at Birmingham City University, retrace the 260 mile route taken by the Prime Minister’s political adviser in April 2020. Edward’s specially adapted Mini car displayed quotes by Cummings including ‘I behaved reasonably’, ‘To test my eyesight’ and, ‘I do not believe I broke any rules’.
After starting the journey early in Islington on Wednesday 5 August, the Kenilworth-born and Birmingham School of Art student took regular breaks throughout the day to change quotes on the installation, and to provide time for conversation with passers-by before arriving in Durham at 1600 then Barnard Castle at 1730.
Artists, general public and commentators including Durham Labour MP Mary K Foy, took part in an Instagram livestream throughout the day to discuss topics including the political climate at large; education of young people around politics; and making politics more open and accessible.
The launch of the creation, a purpose built steel frame constructed in a home workshop, is intended to ‘analyse the deception in language that is regularly used by politicians to hide their actions’ and used the strategist’s responses to media and public allegations that he had breached lockdown laws in April through two journeys.
The work and performance coincides with the news that a couple who reportedly witnessed a second visit to Barnard’s Castle by the PM’s top strategist have challenged 10 Downing Street to provide evidence that Cummings did not repeat the journey – a charge he currently denies.
Speaking about the piece which combines political commentary with public performance artwork, Sam Edward said “The inspiration came when I saw that Dominic Cummings was not going to apologise, have any disciplinary action taken against him from Boris Johnson and that Durham police dropped the case. Those factors, I feel are the best example of the fact that currently in this country there is one rule for politicians, the elite and the wealthy – and another for everyone else.”
“So, once lockdown was lifted and I saw the story fading away I thought, what can I do? I have done site-specific work in the past and performance-based work, but I felt like the best comment on his journey was to recreate it. Recreate it with his own words about it.
“As we move into a new world post-lockdown, we have opportunities to challenge the norms of our every day. We can challenge how institutions are built and behave, how individuals act/or do not act within these spaces as well as provide a platform for voices that need to be elevated.”
The livestreams from the performance can be viewed back at www.instagram.com/iamSamEdward.
Sam Edward is a graduate of Fine Art from Falmouth University, and is currently studying at the historic Birmingham School of Art. His art practice revolves around work that uses text in public settings, to improve accessibility around politics, education and language.