There’s a new Banksy in town…but this guy works in jam jars. Former KLF rocker turned artist James Cauty is up to his old, extreme tricks. ‘Riot in a Jam Jar’, his exhibition shown at Ink_D gallery, Brighton, reaches new levels of controversy, with graphic and disturbing scenes involving protesters, well-known figures and the authorities placed inside mere jam jars.
His radical and darkly comical art works, which he calls “small world re-enactments”, show imagined riots, including Take That being beaten up by riot police. He also depicts snap shots from genuine public clashes such as the student riots and the recent looting affair.
His fresh, witty take on the news is reminiscent of programmes such as Mock the Week.
The 1:87 scale jam jar models are all exquisitely constructed and hand painted. His work is physically accurate down to the smallest protest poster trodden into the ground, even the lights in the police vehicles flash. It is the implicational accuracy in some of his pieces which is lacking, for example ‘The ritual hanging of Nick Clegg’. Here we see the Deputy Prime Minister being executed by an angry mob who were furious at the Lib Dem leader’s U-turn on tuition fees.
His jam jars can show twists on actual events, for example, ‘Of wiv their ‘eds’ (top left) involves The Prince of Wales about to be beheaded by a mob during the student fees protests as the Duchess of Cornwall watches from their royal car. This shrewdly blends fact and fiction as Charles and Camilla were caught up in student protests last year as they travelled to the Royal Variety Performance. Charles actually had his car pelted during the protests, but Cauty has taken the incident and given it a far more distressing outcome.
In the tiny Take That display, the tables are turned on the group after they used riot police in their Brit Awards performance in February. The group were joined by dancers dressed in riot gear with batons and shields when they performed ‘Kidz’ at the O2 Arena.
In Cauty’s artwork however, Robbie Williams is depicted lying on the ground bleeding, while other members of the group look on as an officer hits Mark Owen. The artist said: “In the small world re-enactment, the police see it as trivialisation of their work and retaliate by giving the band a well deserved kicking.
‘Jimmy’ Cauty first found fame as one half of KLF, before going on to form ‘The Orb’. Cauty has since gained notoriety for stunts. He himself was involved in a famous incident at the 1992 Brit Awards when he opened fire on the audience with a fake machine gun. Later, he dumped a dead sheep at the after show party. He also burnt £1million on a remote Scottish island.
Cauty said: “The jam jar represents containment. Violent disturbances served up in manageable doses like news bulletins – complex situations reduced to mantelpiece ornaments and souvenirs. In real-life riot situations, the media focus is always on the sensation, violence on the TV screen; tag lines and one-liners are the currency. The works in A Riot In A Jam Jar mimic this TV news approach. They focus on, and amp up, situations for instant consumption. These tiny acts of violence serve as snap shots of a greater and vastly more complex reality.”