HIGH VIS: Protest, People and Power in a time of Fake News

Penny Byrne
Date: 
Saturday, 2 March 2019 to Sunday, 19 May 2019
Curator/s: 
Warrnambool Art Gallery

"HIGH VIS: Protest, People and Power in a time of Fake News" is a solo exhibition by Penny Byrne that builds on a significant body of work that the artist has been developing since creating "iProtest" in 2012. In this highly relevant and ambitious exhibition, Byrne applies her keen sense of politics to interrogate, through sculptural and installation practice, whether individuals have any true agency or ability to determine ‘truth’ when it is has become intertwined with subjectivity and sentiment and blurred by fake news and the effects of mass participation.

"HIGH VIS: Protest, People and Power in a time of Fake News" is a solo exhibition by Penny Byrne that builds on a significant body of work that the artist has been developing since creating "iProtest" in 2012. Comprising over three hundred vintage porcelain ceramic figurines, iProtest examined how contemporary ideological protests had developed mass movements; a socio-political trend that has continued in recent times with the 2017 "Pussy Hat" protests in the USA that sparked the #metoo movement.

This exhibition focuses on another recent socio-political movement known as the "Yellow Vest” protests. The "Yellow Vest” protests are a French grassroots political movement that began in November 2018 to champion economic justice following the announcement of a controversial fuel tax by President Emmanuel Macron. Wearing yellow high vis vests, the protestors are demanding a redistribution of wealth and increases to the minimum wage and social security payments. Imbued with strong sentiments of social justice, the wearing of yellow vests by French protestors for the Yellow Vest mobilisation has recently been appropriated by both pro and anti UK Brexit protestors - linking both movements through a strong aesthetical symbol and suggesting a correlation between each groups’ sense of struggle against political and privileged classes.

These movements however, like other contemporary social protests, are complicated by declarations of Trumpian Truisms, allegations of fake news, politically self-serving statements and the dilution of fact. "HIGH VIS: Protest, People and Power in a time of Fake News" examines the mentalities of chaos and confusion that, using the Yellow Vest movement as an example, underpins contemporary social movements. In this highly relevant and ambitious exhibition, Byrne applies her keen sense of politics to interrogate, through sculptural and installation practice, whether individuals have any true agency or ability to determine ‘truth’ when it is has become intertwined with subjectivity and sentiment and blurred by fake news and the effects of mass participation.

Penny Byrne

Penny Byrne is a Melbourne-based artist whose sculptural works are politically charged, highly engaging and often disarmingly humorous. Using materials such as bronze, glass, vintage porcelain figurines and found objects, Byrne's work presents an ongoing inquiry into popular culture and international politics. Her background in ceramics conservation and the law informs her practice. Byrne's ability to work across varying mediums, and scales exemplifies how she challenges the boundaries and assumptions around her art. Byrne has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally and is represented in a number of private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Warrnambool Art Gallery, RMIT University Art Collection and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. She is represented by Michael Reid, Sydney + Berlin, and Coates and Scarry, London, UK.

Artist's website: https://pennybyrneartist.com/

Image credit: Penny Byrne, Love is a Battlefield 2013 (detail). Bronze and enamel. On loan from UAP.