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96 Landmine (Princess Diana)

Conrad Atkinson has placed porcelain landmines in unexpected locations around Liverpool for the duration of the Biennial. This series of work serves as a prelude to the artist’s forthcoming exhibition Mining Culture, which opens at Bluecoat Arts Centre in November 1999. Artist’s Statement: Several years ago, before Princess Diana became involved, I was invited to be the official artist of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines (Vietnam Veterans of America). Landmines are not only functional weapons of destruction that cost three dollars to make and three hundred to deactivate, and that will continue to kill children at random for the next thousand years at the current cleanup rate. They are also objects of political, economic and cultural significance, serving as metaphors for a variety of contemporary issues and ideologies. Landmines represent the globalisation of culture as much as the Golden Arches of McDonald’s. We love our beautiful bombs: they defend our way of life. By bringing these symbolic values into focus, I have tried to offer a different – and more productive – perspective on our propensity for creatively destroying each other. From Goya to Guernica, from Roger Fenton to Don McCullin, artists have sought new, more effective ways to picture war and horror. But the image of children with bandaged limbs and missing legs – like all images of human tragedy – produces only compassion fatigue when repeated several hundred times. Rather than seeking to represent this horror literally, I have focused on its source. We are imbricated with these weapons, ideologically, economically and imaginatively. In this sense imagination has itself become a source of death and destruction. Like Bob Dylan wrote on his guitar, ‘this weapon kills’.


24 September – 07 November 1999


School Lane
L1 3BX