Beagles & Ramsay live in Glasgow and have worked collaboratively since 1996. Their work ranges from sculpture, photography and printmaking to video and performance.
Their practice has a longstanding connection to older cultural practices, such as the counter tradition of the carnivalesque, within which darkly humorous political allegories and satire play central roles. They’re interested in the potency of the laughter of disorder and the grotesque body as a multiple impact site, battered by the vicissitudes of contemporary culture, politics and consumerism. The figures that appear within their work are implicated in this complex struggle to carve out a space for agency. As such the tone, timbre and content of the voices are necessarily polyphonic and oscillate between the melancholic, reflective and intoxicated, to the manic and accusatory. Their intention is that this work should reflect something of the subjective experience of shifting between feelings of combativeness, impotence and complicity.
Historical artists, from the painters Brueghel, Tiepolo and Goya, to more acerbic satirists such as Daumier and Hogarth (as well as novelists such as Swift, Rabelais and Chaucer) have also exerted a profound influence. An influential aspect of these artists’ work has been their ability to combine their visual or literary aesthetic with political allegories and satirical content.
We Are The People – Suck on This (2000) is Beagles & Ramsay’s most explicit work on the subject of political disenfranchisement. It features Graham Ramsay in the Robert De Niro role of Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver. The video charts Ramsay’s walk through central London, and ends with him handing in a petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair, at 10 Downing Street. The petition reads ‘We Are The People – Suck on This’ and was signed only by the two artists.
The artists’ presence within their own work is not straightforward. They often use doppelgangers, such as puppets, disguises or assumed identities. These tactics allow them the freedom to explore aspects of contemporary culture, without the restrictions of a singular, authoritative voice.
They have exhibited widely in the UK and also internationally at venues such as the Venice Biennale, PS1 MoMA New York, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and the Migros Museum, Zurich. Recently their work has been included in the national survey exhibitions ‘Generation. 25 Years Of Contemporary Art In Scotland’ (2014) and ‘The Scottish Endarkenment. Art and Unreason 1945 to the Present’ (2016). John Beagles is Director of Postgraduate Studies at Edinburgh College of Art and Graham Ramsay teaches on the MFA Programme at Glasgow School of Art.