STUART BRISLEY, Pigeon Challenge, 1968, Trafalgar Square, London
STUART BRISLEY, Pigeon Challenge, 1968, Trafalgar Square, London
STUART BRISLEY, Pigeon Challenge, 1968, Trafalgar Square, London

The Pigeon Challenge took place in 1968 in Trafalgar Square London one afternoon on a dull summer's day.


Short summary:


Events of May ’68 in Paris had erupted earlier in the year through the actions taken to establish radical socio/political change: a potential revolution flowering into international significance.


In the UK there were cultural and political activities not necessarily sourced by international events, which nonetheless informed and expressed a more localised interest.


The Vietnam War had become an urgent issue even though the British Government had declined to enter the conflict. They did however establish a Metropolitan Police Squad, the Special Demonstration Squad, to infiltrate political organizations on the grounds of public security.


The Committee for Nuclear Disarmament was proselytizing issues concerning the future of life on the planet.


In the UK eruptions were largely concerned with the restrictive nature of traditional cultural and educational practices which were typical across the board.


On the 28th of May, Hornsey College of Art was taken over by the students and some members of staff, I was one of the organisers of the occupation as a staff member. The occupation developed demands for educational structures to be transformed into collective democracies. Other art schools including the Guildford School of Art (where the conflicts was longer lasting and brutal) and some universities were also involved. Reactions of those in power served to inflame and prolong the conflict. Meanwhile the events received demonization and serious attention in the broader society, through media, press and Government intervention.


In these conditions the Pigeon Challenge was conceived as a celebration of the broad protest in the form of a public event influenced to some extent by the Soviet fetes after 1917. It was an attempt to send a radical message through direct action where in performance terms the division between the action and the viewers is broken down. The message is to be found through behaviour and process.


All had the chance, many of whom were also active in the ongoing protests, to take part or not, and by so doing to celebrate the events which began on 28 May 1968.


The names of the several colleges as well as other supportive organisations such as the Trade Unions Congress can be seen on the banners draped around the public statutes depicting imperial power and glory, like the British lions which surround the fountain at Trafalgar Square. As it is known, Trafalgar Square celebrates the victory over the Franco Spanish naval Alliance of 1805.



Stuart Brisley, London 2015