Margaret Harrison - Common Reflections

Installation view of  Common Reflections  at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. Exhibition  We Are Them, They Are Us  up March 26 - May 15, 2015. Photo: Conrad Atkinson.

Installation view of Common Reflections at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. Exhibition We Are Them, They Are Us up March 26 - May 15, 2015. Photo: Conrad Atkinson.

Margaret Harrison’s installation Common Reflections revisits the Greenham Commons Women's Peace Camp, an activist movement which had a huge impact on her life and art, not only because it was an important cause, but also because of the creativity and performative elements of the demonstrations. In 1981, thousands of women protested against nuclear weapons (cruise missiles) outside of the RAF Greenham Common military base in Berkshire, England, a plot of common land that had been leased by the government to the United States. On December 12, 1982, the protesters hung the fence with items that represented what they most valued, covering it with family photos, diapers, toys and household items.  Reflect the Base, a December 11, 1983 demonstration in which hundreds of women surrounded the base holding mirrors to symbolically ask the personnel within the base to “reflect” on their actions, was an experience that has inspired Harrison to integrate mirrors into her work several times since then.

 In 1989 at The New Museum in New York, her installation Common Land Greenham replicated the feeling of being inside the base in the English countryside. The viewer was surrounded by large landscape paintings, text, and a fence topped with razor-wire and hung with children’s clothing, toys, and household implements. The fence was revived again at the request of the Silberkuppe Gallery, Berlin for their 2012 exhibition Preoccupy, a celebration of activist art.

Common Reflections was first shown in this configuration at the Northern Art Prize show in Leeds in 2013, paired with her other major work On Reflection (she won the prize). Taking inspiration from Reflect the Base, she surrounded the fence with large mirrors, situating the viewer within the continuity of activism.