Between the general elections of 2017 and 2019, Britain was held in limbo with no Brexit deal that could win the support of a majority of the House of Commons. Theresa May, the prime minister, was repeatedly humiliated.
Folly Marches On is video projection and collection of scanned newspaper photographs representing the three Conservative Prime Ministers who instigated and oversaw Britain’s withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The sequence begins with a single image of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who agree to hold a referendum on continued EU membership in 2016, which led to the invoking of Article 50. Theresa May became only the second female British Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher and served 1,095 days during which time she failed to pass the Brexit legislation on which she has staked her reputation. The sequence finishes with a series of images of Boris Johnson who succeeded Theresa May claiming that he would “get Brexit done”.
While Folly Marches On features all three UK Prime Ministers involved in the Brexit negotiations, it is Theresa May, the only female contender, who receives the majority of image, or press, attention. The news photographs of Theresa May reflect a specific public perception of her character; that she was inflexible in her impression management. Moreover, the amount and design of media attention focussed on the female former Prime Minister reinforces an imbalance in the media’s representation of male and female characters in the public sphere, in particular politics. This “gendered mediation” sees the media reinforcing gender-specific stereotypes instead of working against them. So, while men might be expected to adopt the masculine norms of politics, women are perceived as aggressive or cold when they follow suit. However, if they act too “feminine” they are viewed as weak and ineffectual, which means there is no way to gain the mediatic upper hand.
‘The Crying Game’ is a series of viewmaster slides depicting some of the most common gendered tropes in the media portrayal of May, a politician who was often represented with relentless close-ups and an almost forensic exposure.
View installation shots here