Black Mirror: Art as Social Satire
Until 13 January 2019
There’s one simple question that tends to divide opinion: Do we live in a post-satirical age? Satire sits at the intersection between art, politics and society, keeping power and complacency in check. In a world where power is self-parodying and doesn’t know what the word ‘complacency’ means, it sometimes feels as though satire has lost its power. But the plethora of satirical talk shows in the US and the soaring sales of Private Eye suggest our appetite for ridicule is as large as ever.
Enter the Saatchi Gallery’s new exhibition, which aims to celebrate and reinforce the power of satire as a vital social and political tool. With a variety of exhibits ranging from photography to sculpture, it highlights how the turbulence of recent years has influenced the voice of the artist as satirist and social commentator.
The scope of the artwork is wide-ranging. It is surely no coincidence that the exhibition shares a name with Charlie Brooker’s hit television series, and many of the pieces reflect this sombre view of a world overrun by technology and materialism. Alejandra Prieto’s striking “Coal Mirror” turns this metaphor into a physical reality, while Turner prize nominee Richard Billingham’s series “Ray’s A Laugh” confronts the affluent art world with the stark poverty of his personal background. Conversely, other artists lean towards the more humorous side of satire. Bedwyr Williams plays on a hackneyed expression by literally inviting visitors to walk a mile in his shoes (which are a comically enormous size 13), while James Howard’s digital prints gently mock a society obsessed with quick fixes.
The exhibition features the work of 26 contemporary artists from around the world and overall the result is, well, a mixed bunch. While some pieces perfectly tap into the absurdity of our modern world, others leave you cold. Still, there’s no doubting that satire in the art world is alive and kicking.