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L-13, London: A Riot in a Jam Jar by James Cauty
A group of schoolchildren is accidentally caught up in a kettling action by riot police in this tiny sculpture in a jam jar by the art anarchist, James Cauty.

LONDON.- It’s the art show that guarantees you will never look at riots, rioters, or jam jars in the same way again…

Featuring tiny sculptures in jam jars, A Riot in a Jam Jar depicts either real or imagined violent clashes, past or future, between protestors, innocent bystanders and the UK’s law enforcement authorities. It gets underway Wednesday, 1 June, at The L-13 Light Industrial Workshop in Clerkenwell, London.

The works are by the anarchist artist and musician, James Cauty, who gained notoriety for burning a million pounds in cash in 1994 with Bill Drummond, his bandmate in The KLF, one of the most successful groups of the 1990s.

The miniature works of art – also known as Small World Re-Enactments – delve into historical fact and future imaginings: from the attack on the car carrying the Prince of Wales by student rioters last winter to the death of newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, at the G20 protests in the City of London in 2009.

James Cauty says: “These ‘small world re-enactments’ depict past and future riots, reality blurred, all within a jam jar. The jam jar represents containment, violent disturbances served up in manageable doses like news bulletins; complex situations reduced to mantle piece ornaments and souvenirs.

“In real life riot situations, the media focus is always on the sensation, violence on the tv screen; tag lines and one-liners are the currency. The works in A Riot in a Jam Jar mimic this tv news approach. They focus on, and amp up, situations for instant consumption. These tiny acts of violence serve as snap shots of a greater and vastly more complex reality.”

This approach is adapted for a re-imagining of the attack on the car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall by student fees protestors in central London last year. In this re-imagining, called Off Wiv Their Eds (which was being chanted by the mob that night), protestors pull the future monarch from his car and appear to be beheading him on the roadside.

James Cauty says: “This event is micro stage managed to a potential beheading by the side of the road, but only for the satisfaction of the viewer and the stage management of a news story, not for any anti-monarchist reasons.”

In Cauty’s imagined world, members of the pop group, Take That, fall foul of the law for using backing dancers dressed as riot police for their performance at the Brit Awards. Robbie Williams is to be seen bleeding on the ground while other members of the group look on as a riot officer batons Mark Owen.

Jimmy Cauty explains: “In the small world re-enactment, the police see it as trivialisation of their work and retaliate by giving the band a well deserved kicking.”

Other pieces include the moment newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, is pushed to the ground by a police officer at the G20 protests in the City of London in 2009, and the incident in which a student fees protestor throws a fire extinguisher from the top of Millbank Tower.

Also on display will be police shields with in-built LED messaging, a selection of rioters’ weapons of choice, and a stop-frame animation of a police training exercise on a Peckham estate played on an iPhone in what has to be the smallest movie viewing space ever … a jam jar.

In a further bid to twist reality into fiction and back again, the internet via the bespoke website,, and the social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, are also used to disseminate information and disinformation on either real or imagined street protests and rioting. In addition, pamphlets, posters and other riot-related memorabilia are being made in conceptual support of the project that focuses almost exclusively on domestic UK riots.

Re-enacting the past and imagining the future, A Riot in a Jam Jar sets out to create a poetic and polemic dynamic between the comfort zones of western culture and the conflict between those driven to protest and those that seek to contain or quell that protest.

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