Ken Livingstone's financial guide

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The Independent Culture
Ken Livingstone, Labour MP for Brent East, this week adds a new dimension to his portfolio. Already an expert when it comes to amphibians and reptiles, a food columnist for Esquire magazine and writer for What's On, the controversial politician no w reveals his talent as a performance artist. He will team up with Peter Kennard, senior lecturer in photography at the RCA (he of the now ironic Haywain with Cruise Missile) for a project attacking the world of finance.

"Our Financial Times" is more installation than simple exhibition and features 14 framed photoworks taken from newspapers' financial pages, torn and over-printed with images of the emaciated hands of pawns in the money game. Livingstone's "performances"

involve him giving a running commentary beside each static image, moving and talking rather like a museum guide.

Kennard and Livingstone have known each other for more than a decade, their association starting in the days of the GLC. "We were both active in the Gulf Peace Committee in 1990," Livingstone explains. "Every time we meet it seems to be at a political crisis. But we're both on the side of the angels."

In those heady days of local government Kennard supplied the GLC with stark images against the use of nuclear arms. "I compiled a book on the peaceful use of the arms industry, for instance images showing how tanks could be converted to tractors," he says.

As everyone with even modest investment knows, finance can be quite an explosive subject, too. Kennard's latest work speaks of injustice, hints at Third World debt and deals in bald, featureless figures and percentages. His direct method of representation (he gave up painting many years ago) is to use the old poster-board device: print it big and bold enough and it has to have impact.

Meanwhile Livingstone, who has studied the problems generated by the World Bank and Third World debts, will shuffle from image to image giving an improvised performance tempered by the audience's reaction. "If more than three people fidget I'll have goneon too long," he says. In addition, some of the work will be wired for sound so that members of the public can transmit their own views through the gallery via large speakers.

By Livingstone's own admission, he is never called on by the Labour Party publicity machine to represent it in campaigns so he has a lot more time for artistic and other indulgences. "I always say, my garden's lovely because Neil Kinnock never gave me a job," he laughs.

`Our Financial Times' runs until 11 Feb. Performances by Ken Livingstone on 24 Jan 12.30pm, 1 Feb 1.30pm, 9 Feb 1pm at Gimpel Fils, 30 Davies Street, W1 (071-493 2488)