Martin Firrell

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I am the conscience of the 21st Century.

Martin Firrell (born 4 April 1963) has been described as a cultural activist, a campaigner and benign propagandist, placing text in public space to promote debate and positive social change.

Sourced[edit]

  • I am the conscience of the 21st Century.
    • quoted in the International Herald Tribune (24 November 2005)
  • Never fall for someone with a body to diet for.
    • quoted in Time Out (12 December 2001)
  • Everybody should be entitled to one lie, one failing, one infidelity.
    • quoted in the International Herald Tribune (24 November 2005)
  • When the world’s run by fools it’s the duty of intelligence to disobey.
    • quoted in The Guardian (25 February 2006)
  • It is perfectly reasonable to despair of a world where the Nobel Committee gives the Peace Prize to a man running a war.
    • quoted as work in progress at martinfirrell.com
  • Everyone is as confused as I am.
    • quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • I can accept no responsibility for any changes in your existence, miraculous or otherwise. You must take responsibility for your own life. You must have your own life because if you haven’t had at least that, what have you had?
    • quoted in What’s On in London (15 August 2001)
  • Calamitous collapse is better than mediocre defeat!
    • quoted in The London Evening Standard (9 August 2001)
  • Revolutions have always started in cafés.
    • quoted in The Independent on Sunday (18 April 2004)
  • I want to live in a city where the police don’t shoot you.
    • quoted in The Guardian on the first anniversary of the unlawful shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by the Metropolitan Police (22 July 2006)
  • Why settle for the art world when you can have the whole world?
    • quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • Ageing is a privilege not a predicament
    • quoted by Caitlin Moran in The Times (18 June 2007)
  • All I need is a hat and a vagina.
    • on becoming a latterday Dorothy Parker overseeing Soho restaurant Kettner’s round table, quoted at www.kettners.com
  • Different is not wrong.
    • quoted in Time Out (17 November 2006)
  • Writing adds up to the conscience of our times.
    • quoted in the documentary Art in a Word by Vera Baghiroli, qoob tv (22 July 2008)
  • I have a fundamental faith in folk, that people are interesting and good.
    • quoted by Ruth Gledhill in The Times (10 October 2008)
  • Art is like a fart for the soul. Better out than in.
    • on the topic of public art, quoted at franceinlondon.com (September 2004)
  • It is in the nature of truth not to be at fault.
    • quoted in The International Herald Tribune (19 September 2005)
  • Art should help you to navigate the real challenges of being a human being.
    • quoted in the documentary Art in a Word by Vera Baghiroli, qoob tv (22 July 2008)
  • I believe we have to put art back at the center of everyday life rather than allowing it to become a specialist activity at the margins of society.
    • quoted in The International Herald Tribune (19 September 2005)
  • If we’re being told to do stupid or cruel things, then it is morally correct to disobey.
    • quoted in the documentary Art in a Word by Vera Baghiroli, qoob tv (22 July 2008)
  • I realized that the only possible response was to go to my wonderful local café, Maison Bertaux, check everyone was well, eat a little cake and then make art. To me, making art, and in particular public art, is always an assertion of our humanity and our strength.
    • in response to the London bombings of 7 July 2005, quoted in the International Herald Tribune (19 September 2005)
  • Quentin Crisp said it to me; now I say it to you: say yes to everything.
    • quoted at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts website (December 2009)
  • Art’s true purpose is to be human as opposed to some rarefied activity set away from real life. I think art should help you to navigate the real challenges of being a human being.
    • quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • I do see myself as aiming to foment some kind of revolution.
    • quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • If the great Western experiment fails and we end up living in totalitarian war-on-terrorism states, one day someone’s going to say, 'Well democracy doesn’t work because they had to give it up’.
    • quoted in the documentary Art in a Word by Vera Baghiroli, qoob tv (22 July 2008)

"Complete Hero" (2009)[edit]

Text projections onto the Guards Chapel, Household Division of the British Army, London

  • When we speak plainly of death we stand equal to it.
  • My heart pumping 70 times a minute every minute my whole life. What a task! To reach any age in those terms sounds miraculous!
  • To embrace the fullness of possible experience without fear strikes me as heroic, impossibly heroic.
  • There is nothing beautiful or noble about death or fear.
  • War is always a failure. It means we’ve failed in diplomacy and we’ve failed in talking to one another.
  • There are many ways to be strong.
  • Women are much more honourable than men.
  • The immense beauty, the vast almost unbearable beauty of justice.
  • The bodily strength, the fierceness and beauty of young women.
  • There’s not a lesbian hero that everybody can relate to.
  • Let’s speak of justice as present in the world, as independent and self-perpetuating.
  • Look to the day when we can say goodbye to all out heroes because their work is done. Justice is alive, independent, unassailable.

"1968-2008" (2008)[edit]

Text projections, Curzon Cinemas, London

  • Protest is liberty's ally.
  • Liberty dies where there is agreement without thought or argument.

"The Question Mark Inside" (2008)[edit]

Text projections onto St Paul’s Cathedral, London

  • The purpose of my life is to try out the ideas I have for it.
  • Feeling is its own law and truth.
  • Everything is resurrected in memory.
  • Everything turns only to memory.
  • Rain has always been connected in my mind with kindness.
  • You said in that moment on the beach you were entirely happy.
  • There's an obligation to try every route to happiness.
  • Every river can be crossed.
  • A grave and sincere apology to the people of Iraq.
  • This is the way the world really ends: not with whimper but a desperate chuckle.
  • Organised religion is something I find hard to follow.
  • God is a concept.
  • Not power not cruelty not death not winning not fighting not money not oil not war not sex not tyranny: all tyrants fall.
  • The road to freedom is bordered with sunflowers.
    • after Willa Cather, in her novel "My Antonia"
  • Imagination has not saved us.
  • How about we have been dead and what we must do after we die? Why we go to the churches when we are living because I think the divines and Christs are dead in the churches and provide the services, cares and merrys on our lived people. And we received the peaceful mind from them and held a better life than before.

"Six Women" (2007)[edit]

Text projections onto the Main Stage of The Royal Opera House, London

  • Surrounded by army, you think you're going to die. You can't shower because they'll find you nude.
  • You have to work out how not to die tomorrow.
  • Power is always temporary.

"Keep the Faith" (2006)[edit]

Text projections in the Duveen Gallery, Tate Britain, London

  • All men are dangerous.
  • Security is no replacement for liberty.
  • If obedience invariably leads to cruelty, disobedience is our moral duty.

"I Want to Live in a City Where..." (2006)[edit]

Text projections onto The National Gallery, London

  • I want to live in a city where immigration is seen as a new source of strength.
  • I want to live in a city where the people who make the rules have to live by them.
  • I want to live in a city where dissent is welcomed as much as it's disliked.
  • I want to live in a city where half the people in charge are women.

"The One Irreducible Truth about Humanity" (2005)[edit]

Installed text to the North edge of Trafalgar Square, London

  • The one irreducible truth about humanity is diversity.

Quotes about Martin Firrell[edit]

  • One of the capital's most influential public artists.
    • The Guardian (22 July 2006)
  • I like words on public buildings and Firrell is a master of gauging their power.
  • Martin Firrell is my favourite public artist.
  • How rare that an artist should make something which forces us to think, and encourages us to stop and think, to question why we behave the way we do.
    • Don Boyd, Creative Review (9 November 2009)
  • What a good thing (Firrell) is for this world of ours.
  • With his geisha-white complexion and vivid blue eyes, he is a touch of exotica even in the colourful world of Soho.
    • The Times Magazine (5 February 2005)
  • Artists have different materials they work with, and for Martin it’s words.
    • Joanna Hogg film director, quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • Yes he’s a provocateur if you like, but the underlying message is very rarely ‘life’s rubbish and you’re all a bunch of sharks’. And I think that is a reflection of Martin’s belief in the better side of people.
    • Deborah Bull Creative Director, the Royal Opera House, quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • He’s seeking to move beyond simple messages to something which provokes in the viewer a new sense of themselves and their place in the world.
    • Deborah Bull Creative Director, the Royal Opera House, quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)
  • Many will support Firrell’s aims… the combined effect of words, visuals and soundtrack is powerful… Firrell, an artist based in the city, is renowned for text pieces like this.
  • It is so deep, it’s so impressive, it goes straight to your heart.
    • passerby quoted in the documentary The Question Mark Inside broadcast in the UK by Sky Arts (30 October 2009)

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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