Franko B – Unloved / A/Political
Exhibition run: 19 October – 13 December 2019
Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Franko B has championed the rights of the “unloved” since his seminal bleeding performances in the 1990s. At the present, when Ireland is interrogating the Church and the State for the abuse of thousands of children and adults, the artist confronts us with his advocacy on behalf of those let down by the institutions designed to help them.
A red cross is tattooed on Franko B’s heart and is repeated like a pulse all over his body. For many, it is a symbol synonymous with caregiving, particularly the ‘protected persons’ helping the sick and wounded in areas of armed conflict. For Franko B, it reflects the trauma of his youth and his personal, political and poetic desire to undo the wrongs imposed on him as a vulnerable child. Having been raised in an orphanage and subsequently in a boarding school run by the Italian Red Cross, Franko B uses his own childhood experiences in the exhibition Unloved to examine ongoing exploitation, negligence and abuse of power.
Throughout Unloved, Franko B foregrounds photographs of victims of atrocities that the press and digital media relentlessly force us to consume. In his piece The World is Bleeding, 2019, he clashes images that highlight a mixture of famine, power, poverty, neo-colonialism, beauty and war in a stream reminiscent of an Instagram scroll. As Susan Sontag observed, “We want the photographer to be a spy in the house of love and death” (Regarding the Pain of Others, 2003); here Franko B bestows this privilege on us.
For the first time, Franko B presents thirty-three canvases, stitched with a pain previously inflicted on his punctured body. For each portrait, Franko B conflates the distance between photographed subjects and the audience, stripping them of captions, locations, the identity assigned at birth and the colour of the skin, focusing instead on their tormented, adolescent bodies. Distilling the image from these qualities leaves the audience with nothing to feed their prejudice against ‘them’. In a democratic and humanitarian gesture, he connects the warfront and the homefront, both engulfed in the pain of poverty.
Marking the opening of the exhibition, on the 18 October, Franko B will deliver UNLOVED – a one-off performance at Rua Red. The performance, featuring the works from the series Homage to the New World Order, 2017, manifests the artist’s violent resistance against institutional abuse and negligence.