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A black and white photograph of a series of paper flags on a beach

Dysarticulate II: Field of Flags: Jon Adams

Wendy McGowan-Griffin reviews 'Dysarticulate 2' by Jon Adams

In the Pavillion Gardens, Brighton I encountered an evolving work called ‘Dysarticulate 2’ by Jon Adams. He was inviting people to create a flag and place it in the ground, creating a ‘field of flags’.

Jon explained how, by seeking identity through nationality, the flags that represent us also divide us. By engaging the public as participants he sought to break down some of these barriers. The ‘flags’ were pages torn from random books and each participant could choose one from a pile or to be handed one at random. Most people seemed to look for something with which they could identify, a meaningful word, a passage from a title they recognised, or simply a blank page.

One of the reasons that Jon chose to tear out and use the pages from books is that he also wished to break down the power of books themselves to divide us – through non-literacy, different languages and through conditions such as dyslexia. Thus they could be transformed into a universal language that marks the action of individuals through a collective project.

This rapid process of recognition reminded me of the speed in which we quickly recognise aspects of things that we like or reject in others that we encounter. Individuals quickly assert an identity – seeking difference but not separation as they included their flag amongst the host in the grass.

Perhaps no-one will know the personal meanings attached to each flag or what the action of placing them meant to them. Who knows what the personal feelings and circumstances call out for something to join us together under a single flag and in doing so separate ourselves from other groups. This process encouraged both individuality and inclusion.

One woman broke the stick as she placed it in the ground but didn’t go for another, pressing it in firmly into the ground anyway and a man went to the top of the slope and placed his flag on the edge. Where it stood seemed important. But each soon became part of the mass as the moment and the light changed throughout the afternoon.

At the end of the day the flags will be gathered up to be placed elsewhere, at another site, eventually joining many thousands of others as they are finally gathered and assembled in 2012 for the Cultural Olympiad.