Jamie Reid will forever be associated with punk and the Sex Pistols. His bold mash up of photocopied found images and blackmail cut and paste sloganeering defined an era, but there is much more to Reid than piercing the queen’s lip with a safety pin.
‘That’s just being a victim of the media,’ he says, seemingly unconcerned that a few striking images have defined his career in the public eye, ‘and people do forget that there’s thirty years of my work: the stuff that I did with the Pistols was predated by the Suburban Press work, and since then there’s been work on No Clause 28 campaigns, the Criminal Justice Bill, the Poll Tax right up to the No Logo movement now, and that’s the kind of stuff people know me for. But there’s always been other work that I’ve done that’s to do with mysticism and magic, much more esoteric stuff.’
These two elements, the political and the spiritual, have been the cornerstones of Reid’s work from his earliest forays into design. ‘I was brought up as a Druid and a socialist,’ he explains, ‘and I’ve incorporated those two things. The famous punk work came from a political background with the Suburban Press. It was all very community-based, and leaning into anarchist and situationist areas. We did a lot about council and business corruption, anti-racism, the women’s movement, that kind of thing.’
‘We had no money, so we were cutting things out of newspapers and magazines, and because we had our own printing press we were really able to experiment. It was out of that that we formulated the look that became punk. But I’ve always believed you need political change, but you need spiritual change as well, which is where my Druidism comes in.’
Reid’s latest show, Peace is Tough, is an all-encompassing look at these two strands, from situationist and anarchist DIY publishing to Druid-inspired wall-hangings. Most of all the show is set to reconfigure the Arches in line with Reid’s current preoccupation with creating whole environments instead of stand-alone artworks, as seen at Strongroom Studios in London’s East End.
‘The Strongroom project is something I’ve really enjoyed because I’ve been able to take a lot of ideas from my Druidism, Shamanism and magic and put them in a DIY practical context, using colour and symbols and glyphs to create a working environment that actually inspired the creation of sound. In a way it’s just as subversive as anything else I’ve done, because I think it fundamentally changes the whole creation of a working space. I firmly believe that 20th Century architecture, and the architecture of the last two millennia, has been about enslavement, and brainwashing people. I think you can make working spaces that actually inspire.’
The transformation of Reid’s space in the Arches is, in the spirit of punk, as yet, loosely defined. ‘We’ll just see what happens,’ Reid says, laughing, ‘I’m taking the work up there, but until it’s on the walls I won’t know how it’s going to work, and we’re hanging it the day of the opening, which is what I’m used to, really, because most of my work recently has been seen in clubs and at festivals where the visual artist is always at the bottom of the pile below the DJs and soundchecks for bands, it’s quite rare for me to be involved with a gallery.’
‘There’s a collaboration with a Russian laser artist called Alexei Blinov, and a drummer Saul Hughes. We’ve done some collaborations in the past, and Alexei is a great experimenter and we’ve come up with a system where I can draw live, and he gets it straight out as a laser image that has that hologram look. There’s a great spontaneity about what we’ll be doing, then there’s a multimedia element with slides and video of 30 years worth of my work.’
Jamie Reid’s contribution to the FuncT festival is both a retrospective and a chance to catch the designer and artist’s latest hi-tech project. Not that Reid has abandoned the scissors ‘n’ glue approach. ‘I’m still very much in to the collage and cut and paste,’ he says, ‘I think you can take a very punk attitude with computers, but I think they’re very untactile. I like to get my hands dirty.’