Gee Vaucher is an artist from Essex who partookin the counterculture of punk anarcho-pacifism during the 1970s, and thusbecame ovular to the aesthetic of protest art which surfaced during the 1980s.Wielding her talent and work to make specific social change; Vaucher stands asan icon of dissent to me, as she demonstrates what it is to be both a creativewho is fiscally savvy and a politically active voice. Originating in the Crass Art Movement, Vaucher’swork has extended beyond one medium. Her practice includes illustration,collage, painting and installation. This wide range of methods has attracted amuch wider audience, and therefore has helped in mobilizing heranti-establishment views. Additionally, having this wider appeal has allowedfor the work to be seen across borders, holding relevance internationally. To demonstrate this, ‘OhAmerica’ was created in 1989 (Gouache on card) as a commissioned piece forTackhead’s album ‘Friendly as a Hand Grenade’ but has recently been omnipresentin the aftermath of Trump’s election. Upon seeingthis piece at Vaucher’s Introspective exhibition at the Firstsite Gallery inColchester, the magnitude of the image was made clear to me.
Vaucher activelyresists the greed and tarnish which is promoted through capitalism and theever-growing power of corporations. What is more, through creating this pieceof art, other people are enlightened and begin to promote the same view. The dayafter the American election, the image was published on the front page of the DailyMirror newspaper which was an iconic choice within itself. For a newspaper toso utterly pass their biased opinion on a political event is outstanding, andthe fact that the image used was that of Gee Vaucher made it even more of anotable move. Paired with the headline ‘What Have They Done?’ (Allen, 2016) theimage succeeds in shock and awe and catapulted a storm of social media coveragewhich further proves that Vaucher’s work crosses borders into a league of internationalnotoriety. What alsois notable about Gee Vaucher is that one doesn’t have to have prior knowledgeof her work and intentions for it to be influential.
In actual fact, when operatingas part of the crass art movement, Vaucher subsumed her singular identity intoa collective which focused on anonymity. Even when her identity as a person isnot focused upon, Vaucher’s epochal designs about war and corruption came todefine the oppositional and politicized punk aesthetic of the 1980s. Interestingly,although the work of Vaucher so obviously lends itself to political art, whenspeaking to her in an interview it was discovered that she does not actuallyclass herself as a ‘political artist’ (Interview, 2016). Stating that ‘all workis naturally political’ Vaucher distances herself from being labelled and thisis a feature which follows through her line of work, not wanting to be defined. So, to address some of herwork which is not obviously political, I referred to the book Animal Rites (Vaucher,2004) which was published by Exitstencil Press in 2004. Upon page 15 in the book,one can come across a rather stunning image.
Focusing onthe psychology of human behavior and interaction, Animal Rites both in thepublished book and in the room of Vaucher’s exhibition comment on our tendencyas humans to anthropomorphize animals. Enlightening ourselves to our ownactions, Vaucher sparks a train of thought which I saw many experience whenvisiting the exhibition. Attributing human moods such as happiness or sympathyor even dominance to animals, we project our own way of existing onto the creature.
Paired withVaucher’s quote: ‘All Humans are Animals, but Some Animals are More Human thanOthers.’ (Vaucher, 2004) The images and figurines which are shown in Introspective blur the lines betweenwhat it is to be human and what it is to be animal, showing yet again that herwork is bold in opinion and therefore iconic in nature. These images, thoughnot obviously political in a visceral sense, succeed in making just as much ofan impact as those like ‘Oh, America’ which are quite clear in their message.