What would happen if lots of children decorated an official government letter and sent them to an artist? An exhibition of subversive thoughts is what — and that’s opened at the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury.
Jonny Banger, designer and owner of subversive fashion label Sports Banger came up with the idea after receiving one of the government’s Covid Letters in the post and was about to bin it.
He invited young people, under the age of 16, to customise the letter, as a way of articulating their feelings – including about the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, and the NHS.
And the response was huge, and often, crude.
In part because he suggested a few keywords to get the kids started, and all kids like rude words, poo shows up a lot. So much so that an entire wall of the exhibition is devoted to poo.
It’s an exhibition that is aspirational, hopeful, political and creative. From children scribbling with crayons over the page or the envelope, to substantial creative distortions that use the letter as just a canvas to be hidden underneath the art. Many of the messages are support for the NHS, but interlaced with criticism of the government and their actions (or inactions).
It’s one of those displays that can be looked at from a distance, to observe a collection of very varied art, but all based on a single canvas – but also moments draw you in closer to see what the messages say when viewed up close.
The exhibition is mostly based in one room, but fittingly for subversive art, a number of defaced letters have been scattered around the grand rooms of the Foundling Museum. Scribbles amongst the fine art.
It’s an interesting display. Thanks to the very nature of how it was created, it’s reflective of the views of those who wanted to make a statement, but still, it captures the mood of a moment in a format that few news reports will have been able to. It’s a valuable archive of a moment in time for the future.
All of the children who entered received a certificate (making them an honorary pirate of the ‘Banger Fleet’), a bootleg Blue Peter badge, and a couple of t-shirts.
The exhibition, The Covid Letters is open at the Foundling Museum until 17th January 2021. Entry to the museum costs £9.50 for adults (free for under 21s), and tickets need to be booked in advance here.