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A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020

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A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020
A black life-size statue of a black woman in contemporary clothes, standing with her right fist raised above her head, set on a white stone plinth with bronze plaques and sculpted dolphins, against a background of trees in an urban space.
ArtistMarc Quinn and Jen Reid
Completion date2020
TypeSculpture
MediumResin and steel
SubjectJen Reid
ConditionFigure removed
LocationBristol, England
Coordinates51°27′23″N 2°36′18″W / 51.4564928°N 2.6050962°W / 51.4564928; -2.6050962Coordinates: 51°27′23″N 2°36′18″W / 51.4564928°N 2.6050962°W / 51.4564928; -2.6050962

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 is a 2020 black resin sculpture by Marc Quinn and Jen Reid. It depicts Reid, a young black woman protester, raising her arm in a Black Power salute. It was erected surreptitiously in the city centre of Bristol, England, in the early morning of 15 July 2020. It was placed on the empty plinth from which a 19th-century statue of Edward Colston, a merchant, philanthropist and Member of Parliament involved in the Atlantic slave trade, had been toppled, defaced and pushed into the city's harbour by George Floyd protesters the previous month. The statue was removed by Bristol City Council the day after it was installed.

Background[edit source | edit]

On 7 June 2020 the statue of Edward Colston, a prominent 17th- and 18th-century Bristol merchant, philanthropist and Tory Member of Parliament who had been involved in the Atlantic slave trade,[1] was toppled during George Floyd protests in the United Kingdom.[2] Following the toppling of the statue, Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid climbed onto the plinth and made a raised fist. A photograph of this taken by Reid's husband was posted to Instagram and seen by Quinn.[3][4] Reid said "Seeing the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the river felt like a truly historical moment; huge. When I was stood there on the plinth, and raised my arm in a Black Power salute, it was totally spontaneous, I didn't even think about it. My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of Colston and to give them power. I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality."[5]

Description and creation[edit source | edit]

The statue A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 was constructed by the artist Marc Quinn and his team from black resin and steel.[1][4] It is a life-size depiction of Reid, a young black woman,[4] making the same raised fist pose she struck on the plinth shortly after the Colston statue's removal.[1][6] Quinn and Reid describe the work as a collaboration between them,[7] with Quinn stating that "Jen created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and raised her arm in the air ... Now we’re crystallising it."[1]

To create the sculpture, Quinn made a 3D scan of Reid recreating the pose. The sculpture was 3D printed in sections before being cast in black resin and steel and assembled.[4] To make the statue in bronze would have added several additional months to the project.[8]

Reid and Quinn have designated the work as not-for-profit, stating that, if the sculpture ends up being sold, profits would be donated to Cargo Classroom and The Black Curriculum, two educational charities chosen by Reid.[7]

Erection[edit source | edit]

The statue was erected secretly, by a team of 10 people in 15 minutes at around 5am. It was set on the Portland stone plinth on which the statue of Edward Colston had stood in The Centre, Bristol.[1] The statue was neither commissioned by the local authorities, nor was permission sought for its erection.[7] The installation of the statue was not illegal,[4] with police stating that no offence had been committed and that the statue was a matter for the council.[9] The statue was affixed in a manner that did not require any damage to the plinth.[4]

Commentary[edit source | edit]

Quinn described the piece as a "new temporary, public installation",[7] "ultimately moveable" and that it was "not a permanent artwork".[1] However Quinn said that his team had surveyed the location and it was not easily moved.[10]

Quinn echoed the view of Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees after the toppling and removal of the statue of Edward Colston a "piece of historical poetry", calling the removal of the Colston statue "an amazing act of poetic justice" saying "Bristol will eventually work out something to put on, or to do with, the plinth".[11]

In a comment to The Guardian, Quinn said "Racism is a huge problem, a virus that needs to be addressed. I hope this sculpture will continue that dialogue, keep it in the forefront of people's minds, be an energy conductor. The image created by Jen that day – when she stood on the plinth with all the hope of the future of the world flowing through her – made the possibility of greater change feel more real than it has before."[4] In a joint statement Quinn and Reid wrote "Jen and I are not putting this sculpture on the plinth as a permanent solution to what should be there – it's a spark which we hope will help to bring continued attention to this vital and pressing issue. We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalised and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to. This sculpture had to happen in the public realm now: this is not a new issue, but it feels like there's been a global tipping point. It's time for direct action now.[7]

The Guardian reported that the statue was mostly popular with passersby in Bristol. A group was reported gathering in objection to the statue, while others took photos, or took the knee.[9]

Removal[edit source | edit]

Rees said the statue did not have permission to be installed, and would be removed.[12] He had previously said that the future of the plinth would be decided by the people of Bristol.[13] Bristol City Council removed the statue on the morning of 16 July, and said it would be held in their museum "for the artist to collect or donate to our collection".[14] Rees said that the council would welcome a contribution from the artist to cover the costs of the removal.[15]

References[edit source | edit]

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  9. 9.0 9.1 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 23: bad argument #1 to 'old_ipairs' (table expected, got nil).
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External links[edit source | edit]