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Joe Sweeney

28 Days in March

COB Gallery, London

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Joe Sweeney
28 Days in March
18 min 36 s
Format & Technical

Video HD composite with original score, single channel, sound
Ed. 5


Victoria Wiliams

28 DAYS IN MARCH… is a composite video work with an original score created by British emerging artist Joe Sweeney.

This video work represents the culmination of Sweeney’s interactive public sculpture titled +44 Leave A Message For Europe which took place in March 2019.

28 DAYS IN MARCH… is an evocative time capsule which, through the real voices of the public, captures social and political anxieties and divisions in the days leading to Britain’s departure from the European Union. This vocal archive of opinion, is contrasted against the powerful backdrop of a wild, unpredictable and geographically significant UK landscape.

As the UK counted down to the proposed Brexit date 29th March 2019, Joe Sweeney invited the public to become part of +44 Leave A Message- a two-part, publicly activated artwork.

Sweeney created a sculptural rendition of a British urban icon – a 1990s British Telecom public phone box. This sculpture, representative of the urban everyday, was evocatively displaced by the artist within the coastal nature reserve of Dungeness, Kent. Dungeness beach is a sprawling shingle coastline, and an important ecological site protected by Natural England. This headland was described by its most notable resident, the late Derek Jarman, as, “…a landscape of past endeavours”. Meanwhile, the site of Dungeness beach is the closest geographical location in the UK to the shores of European mainland.

Installed on the most south-easterly edge of the island within what is known as ‘Britain’s only desert’, the location of the sculpture highlights the contrary motivations and ambitions of the UK’s inhabitants in voting for Brexit, and the fine line between freedom and isolation that is the reality of apparent reclamation of independence.

Whilst installed, Sweeney’s sculpture was filmed as a 24/7 live stream to the projects corresponding website.

Between 1-28th March 2019 people from the UK, Europe and beyond were invited to contribute to a permanent digital archive of individual voices, creating a unique representation of public opinion at a critical moment in history. Calling into the +44 platform, they were asked to leave “a message for Europe” and share their feelings about Brexit, without interruption or judgement.

The sculpture acted as a beacon – a nostalgic call to action, encouraging public participation in a project that addresses an event largely fuelled itself by nostalgia. Whilst installed, exposed to the elements, the sculpture’s untreated metallic structure gradually degraded, causing it to emerge over time, as a physical record of the challenging environment it inhabited. In this way, the sculpture stood as a symbolic, monolithic embodiment of the UK, as it faces an unpredictable future.

Notable participants to the vocal archive included Dame Vivienne Westwood, Gilbert and George, Tim Noble and Caroline Lucas MP. During the course of the original 28 day countdown – Brexit was delayed. Sweeney extended his project for a further 28 days..

28 DAYS IN MARCH… is a time based media work which compositely summarises the activity of +44 Leave A Message For Europe. The work is arranged as a dystopic tapestry, which interlaces archived voice messages left by participants in the project; recorded live streamed footage capturing the site specific sculpture in Dungeness across 56 days and handheld camera footage of the surrounding Kent and East Sussex coastal area. The resulting time based media work captures the social and political anxieties surrounding the issue of Brexit, and at the precise moment of Britain’s departure from Europe. Both the digital and sculptural counterparts of the project saw Sweeney challenge ‘voiceless digital opinion’ – the seeming driving force behind the Brexit campaign and which evidently divided the country – and all of which played out across social media.


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