Sidekick Books was founded by UEA graduates Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving, who claim, on their deliciously minimalist website, to publish “dangerously untested collaborative literature in order to measure its effects on you, the public”. Enticing, isn’t it?
Their recent publication of Phil Cooper’s and Ian Mclachlan’sConfronting the Danger of Art, a collaboration of poetry and art published under the façade of government propaganda, is rather fitting. With whole cover pages dedicated to The Department for Public Safety, the disguise takes on that of Protect and Survive guides, which the British government provided to the public during nuclear attack scares in the 1970s and 80s. The book’s relationship with government doesn’t end there. It also explores age-old attitudes towards the power of art and its potential threat to governmental policies. Indeed, the pamphlet becomes extremely political when considering how it addresses Book X of Plato’s Republic, which discouraged, all those years ago, the irrational and unnecessary practice of art. Furthermore, with chilling and violent illustration and strongly persuasive text, which urges the reader to turn over their neighbours and families to “the council” on nearly every page, the work becomes somewhat reminiscent of Nazi propaganda.
Posing as an informative government booklet to be kept handy at all times, the collaboration is saturated with irony and satire from start to finish. Upon opening the pamphlet, the reader is confronted with an image of two dark eyes, framed, as if on display in an art museum. Whilst the eyes represent an ever-watchful authority, the frame symbolises the façade of the work itself, for as we know, the book isn’t really governmental property at all, but a witty and self conscious amalgamation of art and literature. How then, the book asks, do we place art within our controlling contemporary society? With striking images, and thought provoking messages, this pamphlet will take you five minutes to read, but weeks to consider.