Who Will Keep Up Warm And Safe?
What it is to be human? To be human we need to have our basic needs met before we can connect with others and lead a fulfilled life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places basic things like food, water and shelter at the bottom layer of a pyramid suggesting that in order to attain higher levels of self-actualisation, these lower level needs must all be met first. The 21st century is seeing an ever-growing economic chasm where millions of people are struggling to provide their families with these basics. The unexpected record-breaking profits of the energy companies seems inhuman, as does the lack of duty of care. Humans are fundamentally socially driven and thrive in groups that bond and nurture one another. We are not machines, but we are treated as such in a toxic system. What makes us human should not be taken away.
Warmth and safety are fundamental human rights. Until enshrined in law, however, they are at risk of being stripped away. The work below forms part of a larger body that includes ‘Precariat Banners’, imaginary union banners made for workers in precarious employment positions, looking at our human need for security and safety in the public and working realms and challenging the stripping away of the rights to peaceful protest enshrined in the recent UK Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (Apr 2022). Another chapter to this story is ‘Domestic Protests’ which focuses on the importance of home and interiors, subverting everyday household objects (curtains, tea towels, doormats etc) to examine the right to home life and ideas of shelter.
Shepherd’s Court Whirlpool Fire, Shepherd’s Court Whirlpool Fire ii
Before Grenfell, in 2016, a tower block fire occurred in Shepherd’s Court, West London. London Fire brigade blamed it on a faulty Indesit tumble drier that was awaiting repair. Over 50 residents were left homeless and spent up to six months in emergency accommodation. Whirlpool (who own Indesit and Hotpoint) advised that the faulty machines were safe to use unless left unattended however the owner was in attendance when this fire began.
(l) Hotpoint (Magenta), (r) Hotpoint (Violet)
2022. Sun printed cotton and felted merino wool. 237mm x 298mm
‘Hot Point Tower Block’
2022. Sun printed cotton and felted merino wool. 1050mm x 330mm.
The Grenfell Tower enquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Brick said he had “no doubt” that the fire was started by an electrical fault in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer, dismissing as ‘fanciful’ claims by Whirlpool that it could have been started by a discarded cigarette. About 20% of all the appliances sold since 2014 have the fault and seventy nine fires are thought to have been caused by them. Some fires were even found to be caused by machines that had been repaired/replaced. The London Fire Brigade are concerned with the length of time it is taking Whirlpool to deal with the issue, leaving an estimated 300,000 households still at risk of fires.
(clockwise from bottom left)
‘Scottish Power Hat’, ‘SSE Hat’, ‘Shell Hat’, ‘Centrica hat’, ‘E-on Hat’
2022. Knitted wool hats.
The hats are knitted in the company colours. The figures on these hats are the profits made by these energy companies in Q1 and Q2 (first six months) of 2022. For example: In the first six months of 2022, Shell made a record breaking profit of £17,800,000,000. That works out at £98.5 million profit per day. The cost of living crisis means that many people are not able to afford to pay their energy bills and stay warm this winter. As a result a new phenomenon has arisen, ‘Warm Spaces’ or ‘Warm Banks’ are places that the public can access to get warm if they cannot afford to heat their own homes.
2023. 42cm x 4cm x 7cm (max.)
In early 2023, The Times newspaper investigated British Gas debt collectors that were breaking into the homes of vulnerable people to “force-fit” pre-payment meters. As a result of the investigation, the energy regulator Ofgem has now issued a temporary legal order barring British Gas from forcibly entering customers’ homes until it can prove it was complying with all its legal obligations. Citizens Advice estimates that about 600,000 people were forced onto a prepayment meter in 2022 because they couldn’t afford their energy bills. People on pre-payment meters are forced to pay more for their energy, further compounding the debt problem and when they finally run out of money they are at risk of having their energy services cut off completely.
Southern Water Bucket
2023. 23cm x 22cm x 16cm (max).
Southern Water is one of the worst offenders for dumping sewage onto our UK beaches and rivers. In 2007, Ofwat fined it £200 million for failing to meet guaranteed standards of service and “deliberate misreporting” to enable it to raise prices to customers. In 2021 it was fined £90 million after pleading guilty to 6.971 unpermitted sewage discharges. They have recently admitted that they don’t know how much sewage they are dumping into the Kent seaside waters because they are not tracking the data.
2023. 26cm x 19cm x 10cm (max)
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency found that many VW cars being sold in the USA were fitted with a “defeat device’ that could detect when the vehicle was being tested for emissions and cheat the tests by reducing the results to within legal levels during the testing. Once out on the road, however, the engines emitted nitrous oxide pollutants up to 40 times above legal US levels, despite being marketed and sold by VW as low emission vehicles. VW have admitted that around 11 million cars worldwide (including 8 million in Europe) are fitted with this ‘defeat device’. VW admitted culpability and six executives have been criminally charged. Prosecutors stated that the illegal levels of nitrous oxide produced by VW have contributed to tens of thousands of premature deaths. The scandal is known as ‘Dieselgate’.