Artists vs. London’s massive Arms Fair

Peter Kennard, Warhead 3, 2017

Darren Cullen / Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives, New War, 2017

This September, London will once again host one of the world’s largest arms fairs. The event brings dictatorships and human rights abusers together with some of the biggest arms companies. The fair that sells everything that can maim, kill, wound, and hurt people is euphemistically called Defence & Security Equipment International.

In the past, campaigners have discovered that illegal torture equipment were sold at DSEI, including electric shock stun guns and batons, cluster bombs, leg-irons, as well as body and gang-chains. It’s not just illegal trade that raises concerns though. As UK-based NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) explains, the vast majority of arms sold around the world, including those to human rights abusing governments or into conflict areas, are legal and actively supported by governments. Some of these arms are used by state-nations on foreign battlegrounds but also on the streets, against their own rebelling citizens.

Peter Kennard, Stop the Arms Fair 2, 2017

Protest Stencil, ‘Wear Your Poppy With Pride’ Imperial Stormtrooper bus stop poster, from the series #WeAreTheEmpire, November 2016

Most people in London don’t even know about the existence of the arm fair. DSEI doesn’t partner with mainstream media, nor does it welcome the visit of Amnesty International experts.

The artists and activists of Art the Arms Fair want to raise awareness about the arms fair and the deadly consequences of selling arms with an exhibition held in opposition to DSEI. Three tube stops away from the arms fair, artist-run SET Space will host an exhibition of art works that shine a light on the arms fair and the impact it has on millions of lives across the world. Hundreds of artists have submitted work, including Guerrilla Girls, Peter Kennard & Darren Cullen. Work will be sold to support the work of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

POPX, Stop Wars

The successful 2012 Disarm the Gallery campaign

Human rights campaigners walk alongside the queue for taxis to the Farnborough International arms fair as part of a protest against arms sales to Saudi Arabia used in human rights abuses in Yemen, London, UK. 11th July, 2016

Amy Corcoran, Life and Death, 2017

You can still get involved and support Art the Arms Fair by participating as an artist, volunteering, donating and of course by checking out the programme of exhibitions and performances. ART THE ARMS FAIR is at SET Space in London on 12 – 15 September 2017.

Previously: World of Warfare, a day at the arms dealers fair, Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter, Book review: Drone. Remote Control Warfare, Book review: Future War, Book review: A Theory of the Drone and Eyes from a distance. Personal encounters with military drones.