The Artistic Liberation Front (A.L.F)


I was sorting through some old photos the other day, and came across some images from my Fine Art degree course at Derby University, showing the very first mural that i produced for my degree show! This was back in 1996, and there were no digital cameras or camera phones, so i shot this on an old camera and had to join together 3 photographs to be able to capture the entire wall in the university Fine Art studios!


The mural was inspired by the propaganda murals you see around Belfast in Northern Ireland, and was based on the activities of The Artistic Liberation Front (A.L.F). I used character portraits from old Letrasets from the 60’s and 70’s, for the main bulk of the mural, to represent people around Derby reacting to a broadcast made by the Artistic Liberation Front on a local radio station.


The Artistic Liberation Front was actually created by myself and Adam Boyfield, as part of our Fine Art degree course. We’d been doing a module on the course in public art, and had decided to tie in a piece of work for our course with appearances that we’d been making on a local radio station, presenting a student programme. For one of our assessments, we got the tutors to listen in to one of the shows, which they thought we’d just be playing records on! We then proceeded to take over our own radio show, as the Artistic Liberation Front, and broadcast our manifesto about public art on air. We filmed the whole thing on video camera, hooked up to look like CCTV footage, and also distorted our voices by using effects pedals on the microphones to disguise our identity! We even filmed ourselves in the studio of the radio station wielding fake machine guns and smoking cigars, whilst sporting balaclavas!


Throughout the broadcast, we constantly drew attention to other students work around Derby city centre, which were also part of our public art course. We even played a recording of tapped phone conversations that we had pre recorded with various galleries around the country. These conversations consisted of prank calls from A.L.F asking galleries if they were in the market for buying or swapping work with ourselves, for example, we asked the National Portrait Gallery in London if the needed any Landscape paintings for their collection, and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds if they also needed paintings to hang behind sculptures! We also got serious advice from smaller galleries about how to go about getting exhibitions on their premises, and how to structure proposals, which was important info for art students about to go out into the real world!


When i started at University, i never envisaged myself taking over a radio station as an art terrorist! I’m just thankful that we got to be creative in such a fantastic way, especially on a Fine Art Degree! I think it’s safe to say that, i’m sure we wouldn’t be able to get away with this sort of caper in this day and age, we’d probably have been shot, or exposed by the press as anarchists trying to over throw popular culture, or maybe even turned into some kind of parasitic documentary style show! Maybe the Artistic Liberation Front might rear it’s ugly head again someday, but until then….. Long live A.L.F!