David Mabb’s practice investigates the aesthetics of William Morris’ designs within contemporary political culture. In response to a visit to HMS Courageous, Mabb has created a new series of works to investigate The Ministry of Defence's (MOD) use of the Morris Tudor Rose print (1883) that has been used to furnish - in the officers’ and senior ratings’ quarters - nuclear submarines.
The MOD commissioned the fabric for over thirty years, from the 1960s through to the 1990s, including the Vanguard Class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines which are armed with Trident nuclear-armed missiles. As a socialist, William Morris could never have anticipated that his designs would become the symbol of English homeliness in a nuclear submarine. Prompted by the work of British historian E. P. Thompson, whose biography of Morris was republished in the 1970s when he was a leading intellectual in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Mabb reappropriates Morris from the MOD, bringing the designs into conjunction with a range of anti-nuclear protest signs and slogans which are presented on late twentieth century freestanding projection screens.
The work will be accompanied by reference materials: E.P. Thompson’s William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary; E.P. Thompson’s CND booklet Protest & Survive; Morris fabric samples from British nuclear powered submarines; and a HMS Courageous Museum Guide.
A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmamentwill be exhibited at KARST in Plymouth, as part of the exhibition Material Nuclear Culture curated by Ele Carpenter.