STATE OF THE NATION - NO LAUGHING MATTER
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Media: Acrylic on wood, populated with 4140 nitrous oxide canisters
Dimensions: 2300 x 1150mm
Whilst walking around the local neighbourhood I started noticing small silver canisters littering the streets. Initially I had no idea what they were, but thought they might be used for making soda drinks. I have since learned that these canisters contain nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and are used by caterers as an agent for making whipped cream (hence the name ‘cream puff charger’). However, they are also commonly used amongst young people as a recreational drug, a means of obtaining a legal high.
Cream puff chargers are cheap and easy to buy in store and online. They are known in youth culture by a number of different names: whippit, noz, nang, nossy, hippy crack or Johnson.
The user commonly pierces the foil on the canister and empties the gas into a balloon before inhaling. The effect is a 30 second 'high', which will often be repeated a number of times. Inhaling nitrous oxide poses a risk to health (see separate article).
BREXIT has polarised the country and created political turmoil. This is NO LAUGHING MATTER! I wanted to respond to this turmoil artistically, and the canisters seemed like a perfect fit.
I feel that the Union Jack has become a nationalistic symbol, and therefore it is fitting to use it in an art installation which responds to Brexit.
The background is painted in stripes of six red shades, six blue shades and six white/silver shades, representing the fractious divisions in the country.
To further emphasize the political meltdown, I have only used either squashed or tarnished / scratched canisters, and in an approximate 50/50% split, echoing the political divide.
Collecting this number of canisters has been a major challenge. I usually pick them up from the gutter before the street cleaners get to them, but finding squashed ones which have been crushed by heavy vehicles has not been easy.
I love the flag art of Jasper Johns, and think that this must have been a sub-conscious inspiration.