Monday, July 31, 2006


TRAFALGAR SQ. FESTIVAL: Martin Firrell exclusive interview

Only 2 days to go now until the Trafalgar Square Festival 2006 begins!

One of Thursday's showpieces is I Want to Live in a City Where by Martin Firrell, a large-scale text projection onto the portico of the National Gallery. Further down the blog entry, we have the artist's impressions to give us an idea of what it will look like on the day.

Martin was described by the Guardian newspaper as 'one of London's most influential public artists’ and his work will certainly be one of the highlights this coming Thursday.

Trafalgarsquareblog caught up with Martin for an interview to discuss his ideas, his favourite work and why this one nearly didn't happen!

Hi Martin, how would you describe what you do?

All of my work is based on the idea that art should be for everyone, and meaningful to everyone. Art should be available to everyone and no prior knowledge should be necessary to enjoy it - art and life are really the same thing anyway, and I have a profound belief in the power of art as a force for good… not as some obscure activity that takes place on the margins of society and is only really appreciated by a self-appointed elite.

One of your works - that was covered in the Guardian (go to and click on 'the guardian' link) - was the text projection on the Houses of Parliament stating that When The World is Run By fools It's The Duty of Intelligence to Disobey... would you therefore describe your projects as generally political?

It really depends on the circumstances. For me, every project is different- at the moment, for example, I'm doing a project on heroism and what the definition of 'hero' means in the 21st Century. But yes, I suppose everything in public life could be defined as political...

Do you have a favourite piece of work that you have done so far?

I think it would have to be the work I did for the Trafalgar Square Divali Festival last year (go to Martin's website and click on link 'Trafalgar Square' for more details). The message was The One Irreducible Truth About Humanity Is Diversity. The message being that everyone is different and we should appreciate it and try to work with it.

I think it was a timely message after the problems London went through last year because the message is about inclusion. I don't think I am politically motivated, but I am a humanist and there is just so much richness that can be derived from possible experiences with people from other cultures.

So how did this project for the Trafalgar Square Festival come about?

Well, it's been made possible by the Mayor of London, with the kind permission of the National Gallery.

I was asked to make the work by Martin Green (Head of Events for London, GLA) and creative director of the festival, Bradley Hemmings. Their brief to me was the theme of the festival- all about the city...

Was it hard to come up with your idea?

I'm always working on projects at Maison Bertaux in Soho, so I spent many weeks there trying to find my way into this one.

I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew because I just couldn't find a way into what the content of my work here should be - it had to be something I felt strongly about and also chime in with Bradley's themes of the city.

So I was about to tell the lovely people organising the festival that I couldn't really think of anything - lame, I know!

But then... it just came to me – as it is often the case for me, I work and work, bang my head against the brick wall and then suddenly it all comes to me actual and whole!

What is the idea that you eventually decided on?

I realised I wanted to write a meditation called I Want to Live in a City Where - a statement about the kind of city I'd like personally: with a wish list ranging from practical things like, for example, wanting the infrastructure of the city to be well maintained, to the more esoteric, like freedoms and justice.

I thought, if I shared my wish list, it might prompt people seeing it to think about their own priorities and wishes for the city they live in.

Thank you very much for the interview Martin, and I look forward to seeing the results on Thursday!

Thank you very much. Keep blogging. It's great.

Trafalgarsquareblog will have a report from the festival starting Thursday, including photos of Martin's project there.

Well done Maxim, very informative and well presented. Definitely one of my favourites.

i think I saw something of his at the Tate once... wil check out.
indeed, martin's work ran at the tate few months ago.

i think it's very telling about the society we live in when an artist's work becomes the most prominent form of political expression.

what does that tell us about the level of the political debate?

it is though reassuring to see there are some sharp voices out there who help us to stay awake.
I agree with Martin. Art can't be separated from life and in a way he's trying to make art more accessible to everybody in the way that a 20th. century artist like Diego Rivera attempted to do with his murals.
I met Martin once and he was such a nice guy. He really seems to understand how to communicate art to a modern audience. It was really interesting to read the interview on this blog. Thanks!
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