Grayson Perry’s series of shows for Channel 4 have offered a welcome antidote to Britain’s current epidemic of dumbed down television broadcasting.
The Turner Prize winning artist, famed for his innovative pottery, has become a household name in recent years. His programmes tackle a diverse range of concerns; from commodity fetishism to toxic masculinity. In his most recent documentary Divided Britain Perry creates two pots; one to represent remain voters and the other a reflection of the leave majority. The encounters he has with both groups are candid, perceptive and often riley comic. His raucous laughter accompanies a childlike curiosity which enables Perry to hold very frank and revealing discussions with his subjects.
In spite of being a remain voter himself, Perry produces a programme which casts the Leavers in a much more favourable light than his own camp. Through the lens of the yuppie Remainers, Brexit signifies an attack on the metropolitan lifestyles which they hold so dear. The pregnancy yoga and daytime raves which Perry attends in London are a world away from his experiences in Boston, Lincolnshire, where 75% of voters chose to leave the EU. Here, outside the capital’s bubble of economic and cultural plenty, people have made their feelings of political alienation known.
The show captures a gulf in the lived realities between the two groups which appears almost too vast to overcome. Yet Perry produces two remarkably similar vases, destined to ‘sit on Britain’s mantlepiece’. There is no one right answer, no catharsis for the many questions which our leaving the EU has thrown up. But this was never the intention for Grayson Perry. As shown on screen, his pots create both an impetus and a space for a difficult conversation between two opposing sides. Together, the vases represent how complexed the idea of a national identity is in post-Brexit Britain.
Give it a watch.