1265 Simon de Montfort Parliament by Ross Birrell
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1265 Simon de Montfort Parliament by Ross Birrell

November 21, 2019

Voice Over – 1265 Simon de Montfort Parliament
by Ross Birrell Ross Birrell – The banner really responds
directly to the historical moment of 1265 when De Montfort calls what is in effect the
emergence of Parliament as we know it and I’ve always made work in response to I suppose
the theme of democracy and the notion of democracy being speaking in public places, freedom to
speak in public as a core defining characteristic of democracy and parliament simply means ‘parle’
to speak, you know to speak and to be free to speak. And I’ve made work in response
to Thomas More and Utopia and the history of utopian ideas and so on. But I didn’t
really know anything about Simon De Montfort particularly so it was a kind of challenge
to think of how to respond to that but then I thought of it in relationship to the themes
of the banner commission which was the emergence of Parliament and something that is emerging
you can see it arriving but it’s not yet arrived fully formed so it’s something that’s
maybe taking shape and democracy as we may understand it today wasn’t the same as it
was in De Montfort’s time at all, the 13th century, it’s changed and evolved so I was
really looking for something that’s more contemporary as a response to, something that
resonates really more with the question of what does democracy mean today and for the
future. So ‘democracy to come’ is a quotation from the French philosopher Jacque Derrida
and Simon De Montfort being French as well so there’s a, maybe, kind of parallel there
but it’s really a kind of open question to everybody who comes to visit Westminster,
what kind of shape does democracy have in the future but the banner democracy to come
is also written in caslon font and Caslon font was designed in 1722 by William Caslon
and the font is the same font that was used to print the declaration of independence in
America and the American constitution and De Montfort is also on a relief sculpture
in Congress in America so the impact of those moments, Magna Carta and De Montfort’s Parliament,
in the spread of democracy but Caslon was also a gunsmith so there was a kind of interesting
relationship between in the very form latent in the design of the banner is this relationship
between democracy and violence. Maybe the two are intertwined as they are in the American
constitution with the right to bear arms and one of the Levellers also had that kind of
sense of the right to bear arms and the New Model Army but violence is also the very thing
that threatens democracy and the way we respond to the recent events which challenged the
freedom of speech in Paris and so on that will effect and impact the shape of democracy
to come as well how we respond to those events whether we respond to that with increased
democracy and increased liberty or infringements upon liberty and how that maybe shapes a different
kind of democracy.

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