Interview with Situationist artist Robert Montgomery in Dazed and Confused

12 Jan

Anything visual that actually manages to stand out and touch me in the ubiqutous white noise landscape of mind numbing advertising is always a huge, welcome relief.  I’d seen this piece by artist Robert Montgomery in Old Street before but because it was totally anonymous, I’d never found out about the artist until I came across this interview in Dazed and Confused.

Robert Montgomery’s pieces follow the Situationist tradition of detournement, which is basically the hijacking of advertising space to replace it with poetry.  Through its anonymous presence in a public space, Montgomery’s art is a very personal challenge to the barriage of ads that usually fill up mental space with restelessness, insecurity, and the desire for things we wouldn’t otherwise get into debt for, or an ideal body type it would be necessary to stop eating/go under the knife for.  A simple phrase or thought can be enough to challenge a psychological landscape that is otherwise so easy to take for granted.

The interviewer John-Paul Pryor puts it succinctly when he says Montgomery’s works provides a “reflective space in which a public so used to being psychologically bludgeoned into a consumerist daze can find some respite from the relentless static of the modern world.” Sometimes it’s just relaxing to be reminded that someone relentlessly trying to sell you something wherever you look is not the way it has to be.  An artist making the effort to do this, for free, is somehow touching.

In the Dazed and Confused interview (a magazine he is associate publisher of), Montgomery says his aim is to show what it feels like to “live in ‘Late-Capitalism’…to live in our cities, what it feels like to live with our privilege of wealth and our poverty of time, our privilege of material goods and our poverty of reflection, our anxiety as the systems of economy and ecology we rely on falter, revealing economic injustice and a future that’s more fragile than we thought.” That’s my favorite quote, and the rest of the interview is truly worth a read.

On Situationists, he explains that Guy Debord is an influence because he was “fundamentally interested in what Capitalism does to us on the inside…He also very early on predicts what I was just speaking about – that in their hyper phase Capitalism and the Media will coalesce to make increasingly suave and seductive images of artificial beauty which will alienate us from real life, fill us with impossible desire, and break our hearts.”

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