It’s a dreadful photo! But it was taken in in 1987 – while I was still at art school. My background up to then had included dropping out of a design degree (hence the technical drawing skills), working on a peace boat based out of Long Island, NY and then enrolling at art school in the USA. This early work demonstrates the genesis of my sociopolitical work which was synthesised from those strands of life leading up to starting that art degree.
Peace Machine Number One is a poetic concept of just that, a machine for peace as opposed to the war machines that were so present as I grew up. As a child, the Vietnam War was constantly on the news and war films filled the screens. Action Man, toy soldiers, model kits of planes and tanks and battleships were the legacy toys of being born only 20 years after WWII. War games and physical fights were the milieux of my young life. Conflict was all around.
Crewing a peace boat changed all that. Direct action for peace became my new clothes, which fit me much better. Works like this and the other early pieces of art activism started a lifetime of using art as a tool for social change. Nearly 30 years late I created Peace Machine Number Two – still full of the same belief that art changes lives. So it may be a terrible photo but in my mind it’s a very significant work.