After the first coalition government was elected in 2010, Roberts spent the following two years exploring different ways of representing the effects of recent economic changes on the landscape of Britain, building on from his previous work: The Election Project and When Did You Last Cry? The work starts with two photographs Roberts took in April 2008 where he was invited to make work in Merrill Lynch bank, during what turned out to be the height of the banking crisis (between July 2007 and July 2008, Merrill Lynch lost $19.2 billion, or $52 million daily).
His approach to this subject has been multi-disciplinary, using video, text and objects such as protest banners, as well as digital collages, in an attempt to record our new economic predicament. The ‘Credit Crunch Lexicon’, for example, is a text-based work, which draws upon the diversity of economic, political and philosophical terminology that has now become part of our vernacular. Whilst ‘Brokers with hands on their faces’ is a collage of compiled images of the single most common gesture attributed to financial workers since 2008: that signifying despair, frustration, or exasperation at a situation that they are not in control of. In other work he captures the more visible manifestations of economic change, from the omnipresent sales signs in shop windows and shuttered high street stores to the increase in union strikes, student sit-ins and the manifestation of the Occupy encampments which focused its protest against corporate greed.
Let This Be A Sign was first exhibited at Swiss Cottage Gallery. The exhibition included a selection of placards collected from demonstrations across the UK (2010 – 2012), a pop-up library of economic related texts sourced from the Swiss Cottage Library, and a site-specific piece where Roberts installed a quote from Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy in the window of the Swiss Cottage Library, which houses the gallery. As has become commonplace in his practice, he also added a collaborative element to the exhibition; visitors to the gallery were able to share their experiences of the current recession and its effects by leaving a message on the Public Wall and via twitter using the hashtag #LetThisBeASign (displayed real-time on a computer screen).
The work has subsequently been included in the group exhibition, Show Me The Money: The Image of Finance 1700 to the Present, which has toured to the National Gallery for Contemporary Art, John Hansard Gallery and The People’s History Museum.
‘This Is A Sign’ is an associated newspaper publication produced for the project, designed by Fuel. More here.
View installation shots here
Contact sheet of photographic plates (pdf)
Financial Times Weekend Magazine tearsheet, April 2012 (pdf)
British Journal of Photography tearsheet, June 2012 (pdf)