“Protect and Survive” (1980) presentation

For this presentation of Peter Kennard’s work, I chose a piece titled “Protect and Survive”.


  • What does the image depict?
    A skeleton, reading the original pamphlet of “Protect and Survive”.
  • How was the image made?
    Peter Kennard produced this image with photomontage.
  • What is the message?
    In the original pamphlet, you get told how to protect yourself and your loved ones in case of a nuclear bomb attack on Britain. It features such quotes, as “If nuclear weapons are used on a large scale, those of us living in the country areas might be exposed to as great a risk as those in towns. The radioactive dust, falling where the wind blows it, will bring the most widespread dangers of all. No part of the United Kingdom can be considered safe from both the direct effects of the weapons and the resultant fall-out. The dangers which you and your family will face in this situation can be reduced if you do as this booklet describes.” and goes on to tell you how to deal with all the possible results of a nuclear attack. The problem is, if you were in a town, a nuclear bomb attack would kill a whole load of people, even if they had read the pamphlet and tried to apply the tactics described in the read. And that is exactly what the image speaks about.
  • Where would the image have reached its original audience?
    Perhaps features in publications (liberal and left-wing newspapers, etc.)
  • When was it made?
    It was made in 1980.
  • How does the work correlate with world events?
    In 1980, a lot of stuff went down: a six-man terrorist group called Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRMLA) captured the Embassy of Iran, taking 6 hostages; it is revealed to the House of Commons, that the US nuclear cruise missiles would be located at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire and the disused RAF Molesworth base in Cambridgeshire; gunmen attacked the British Embassy in Iraq; the years previous to that there were lots of different, big threats of nuclear attacks towards Britain and essentially that is what the piece is about.
  • Is it typical of the artist’s period of work or does it mark a change?
    It is typical of this specific photomontage poster period.
  • How is it presented?
    It is framed on the wall with the rest of the small format posters from that period/series.
  • Does its context in the gallery strike up a conversation about other exhibits you can see at the IWM?
    I think it does. It strikes up a conversation with the nearby exhibit featuring things, such as protective clothing in case of radiation, etc. The other exhibition is very to the point and doesn’t really raise any question or provoke any thoughts, it just shows the reality of worries the people had at that time, whereas the Peter Kennard exhibition work reveals to the viewer the propaganda that was going on and the political agenda behind everything.



Sources: http://www.atomica.co.uk/main.htm

Peter Kennard: A very unofficial war artist


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