Coldwar Steve and Art

Why Ai could never

Leo Cookman

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image by Cold War Steve

Christopher Spencer is an artist who would find fame by making collage pictures with a phone app on the bus to work. He would combine images of the cold war with contemporary photos, almost always with Steve McFadden (in his Eastenders role as Phil Mitchell) looking on in disgust. He posted the images to Twitter under the pseudonym McFadden’s Cold War. This later led to him adopting the pseudonym ‘Cold War Steve’.

image by Cold War Steve

In 2016, in the wake of the EU referendum, many of Spencer’s images went viral as they took on a more surreal tone, placing more contemporary figures like Donald Trump, Theresa May and Kim Jong-Un in strange places like the set of Blind Date, working men’s clubs or poverty stricken urban areas. He also includes distinctly non-A-list British celebrities like Cilla Black, Noel Edmonds and Danny Dyer, along with the ever-present McFadden. As society has continued to devolve since that year, sliding into authoritarianism, war-mongering and outright bigotry, Spencer’s work has taken on a sharper and sharper edge. Such as depicting Priti Patel and Suella Braverman at the podiums of Nazi rallies. Today his art is (rightly) held up alongside the work of comic satirists like Hogarth, Gillray and Banksy. He’s had exhibitions and even done covers for New Statesmen and Time magazine. You can find most of this stuff out on wikipedia but its worth the brief history lesson because that’s precisely what Spencer is interacting with in his work.

image by Cold War Steve

Spencer’s montages clash the wealthiest and the poorest, high art with low art, and seem to sum up the quickly degrading state of Britain better than any other contemporary satire. Where mainstream comedy likes to bleat about cancel culture or “woke killed the joke” (when it isn’t an ingratiating, back-slapping love-in amongst Establishment chums like Have I Got New For You), Spencer has never taken his eye off the ball. His ire is directed at precisely where the problems lie: with those in power. He depicts Presidents, Prime Ministers…

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Leo Cookman

Peripatetic Writer. “Time’s Lie” out now from Zero Books.