Ben Turnbull: American History X volume III, Manifest Decimation

15th October – 2nd November 2019

Once Upon A Time In America, 103 x 140 cm, (comic collage on wood), 2018

This Autumn Bermondsey Project Space presents Ben Turnbull’s ‘American History X volume III, Manifest Decimation’. It will be the third in an ongoing series exploring American political and social culture, following American History X volume II, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and American History X volume I

Comprised of seven large-scale collages executed in Turnbull’s trademark style using cut-outs of Western comics and pulp novels, Manifest Decimation is a revisionist take on the mythology of how the west was won. The artist examines the history of the ‘Indian Removal Act’ and the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’, a belief which led to a cultural genocide of native Americans. The centrepiece of the show is a re-imagining of Mount Rushmore with Native Americans now center stage, and, on closer inspection, the surrounding terrain is a vast battleground of comic book Cowboys and Indians.

How The West Was Won, Its A Lie But It’s Made To Sound Like Fun, 85 x 126 cm, comic collage on wood, 2018

Ben Turnbull is best known for his collages, however he also has produced sculptural works, most notably his I don’t like Mondays series (2008), which featured various weapons carved into school desks, a wry commentary on gun massacres in U.S. schools.

Having visited the US many times, Turnbull’s various series have inspired a fierce critique of U.S culture, in particular its politics, but also an affection and fascination which began from his boyhood when he was, like many of his generation, brought up on a diet of American TV programmes. This style has been dubbed ‘angry pop’, an allusion to its power and harnessing of Pop Art sensibilities.

Schools Out, 60 x 120 cm, (carved desk), 2014
Bring Me The Head Of Saddam Hussein, 214 x 122 x 122cm (fibre glass, mixed media), 2008

“From the worst times of turmoil come the greatest works of art. Destruction of humanity, racial tension, meltdowns on every level — financially and literally. It’s where all the good stuff comes from if you’re involved in the arts. There is nothing worse than a society that’s being spoon-fed. Its up to us as artists to respond in kind to the apocalypses that we face within our own generations — be it Vietnam, civil rights, 911, columbine etc…We are the ones holding the brushes, scissors and scalpels to say — ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!’“. 

(Interview with Annie Carpenter)

Hero II, 124 x 88cm (comic collage on wood), 2010

When exploring traumatic events the truth can be horrific but ultimately it’s still the truth. That is the only shock! Horror equals truth and that is my job to convey. Art isn’t pretty, it doesn’t even have to be politically correct. It’s my responsibility to push those boundaries” 

(Interview with Annie Carpenter)

Homecoming, 164 x 60 x 14 cm, (mixed media), 2007