Leicester Contemporary
Friday, April 8, 2022
Saturday, April 23, 2022
16 Market Street, Leicester LE1 6DP
East Midlands
Leicester Contemporary

An inflatable anti-Semite comes to town… Doug Fishbone

The Earth Abideth For Ever

April 8-23, 2022

What happens to our monuments when our heroes become an embarrassment?

Leicester Contemporary is pleased to announce the opening of The Earth Abideth For Ever, a solo exhibition by artist Doug Fishbone, which examines cancel culture through the figure of Simon De Montfort, one of Leicester’s most famous sons. Memorialised in an elegant stone sculpture on the Clock Tower in the city’s centre, and in the names of both De Montfort University and De Montfort Hall, he was one of the founders of parliamentary democracy in England and the nation’s de facto ruler for over a year. But his legacy is tainted by his expulsion, as the 6th Earl of Leicester, of the city’s Jewish community in 1231, which he did, in his own words “for the good of my soul, and the souls of my ancestors and successors”.

How does such a polarising character, who spent time as a Crusader in the Holy Land, remain relevant to Britain’s contemporary vision of itself? Students of De Montfort University began a campaign in 2020 to have his name removed from the University. Should his memorial be knocked down as well? Given the vagaries of power, reputation and public opinion, memorialising national heroes is a tricky, if not impossible, business.

Fishbone offers his own solution to the thorny issue of monuments and national identity. He has created a massive inflatable statue of De Montfort, more than 4 metres tall, reworking the historic statue into something more practical. An inflatable monument seems somehow more fitting for the times – it can be unplugged and removed if it offends contemporary sensibilities, and re-inflated if the political climate swings back in a more racist direction.

Though perhaps De Montfort remains more relevant than we like to believe. Anti-Semitism has proven to be a remarkably stubborn and durable hatred in Britain, with the BBC reporting that anti-Semitic hate incidents hit a record high in 2021. Fishbone presents his take on this wider historical issue in his video The Jewish Question, originally commissioned by the Jewish Museum in London for their landmark exhibition Jews, Money, Myth in 2019. The film, which Art Quarterly magazine praised as “warmly humorous”, is a comic investigation of stereotypes about Jews and money that have endured from even before De Montfort’s times and of Fishbone’s own father’s experience of hostility growing up as a Jew in the East End of London in the 20th century.

Rounding out the exhibition is Man Machine (2013), a video sculpture that casts the artist as a virtual mannequin – a promotional technology used in trade fairs and point of sale displays – to muse on how our personal interactions and headspace have been invaded by technology – more relevant than ever after years of pandemic-induced screen absorption.

Doug Fishbone is an American artist living in London. He earned an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College 2003. His film and performance work is heavily influenced by the rhythms of stand-up comedy – leading one critic to call him a “stand-up conceptual artist” – and examines some of the more problematic aspects of contemporary life in an amusing and disarming way. His 2010 film project Elmina, made collaboratively in Ghana, had its world premiere at Tate Britain in 2010 and was nominated for an African Movie Academy Award in Nigeria in 2011.

Fishbone curated Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf, a bespoke art/crazy golf course featuring some of the UK’s leading artists, at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, and in the same year he collaborated with the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, one of the nation’s most prestigious Old Masters collections, on a solo project involving switching one of the Gallery’s masterpieces with a replica made in China. In 2018 he was commissioned by the European Media Art Platform with funding from the EU to create a major public art work in the German city of Halle.

Most recently, he presented a major new solo exhibition at the Crawford Art Gallery, a National Cultural Institution in Cork, Ireland in 2021.

Selected solo exhibitions include Tate Britain, London (2010-11) and 30,000 Bananas in Trafalgar Square (2004). Selected group exhibitions include Rude Britannia: British Comic Art, Tate Britain (2010); Busan Biennale, Busan, South Korea (2008); Laughing in a Foreign Language, Hayward Gallery (2008), London; and the British Art Show 6 (2006). He has performed at many major venues, including the Hayward Gallery, ICA London, the Southbank Centre, Hauser and Wirth Somerset, and the Royal Academy.

Doug Fishbone

The Earth Abideth For Ever

April 8-23, 2022
PV Friday, April 8 from 6-9 pm

Open Tuesday – Saturday

Leicester Contemporary

16 Market Street Leicester LE1 6DP

This exhibition was generously supported by Wood Street Walls CIC.