YessSIR! Back off! Tell me who I am again?!

2018

Brooks, Flo

The work of Flo Brooks spans painting, collage, drawing and sculpture. His works represent numerous thoughts, experiences and themes that are often autobiographical, referencing family, communities and coming-of-age. Bringing together notions of cleanliness, normativity and morality by way of dramatised satirical fiction, the artist explores the ways the body is manipulated through the lens of hygiene. YessSIR! Back off! Tell me who l am again?! and Butts Only (that's the sound that lonely makes), both 2018, were made on the occasion of the artist’s first solo exhibition at Project Native Informant, Scrubbers. The show consisted of five works that described a fictional commercial cleaning company working its way through a number of familiar institutional spaces – a public toilet, gym, a psychotherapy room – punctuated by coffee and cigarette breaks. The spaces represented in the paintings are those Brooks traversed during his own hormone transition and mental health support, and describe particular hygienic acts he’s exercised in a bid to recover his ‘authentic’ gendered, material and psychic self. Checkered with uncertainty, they feel more like spaces of entrapment and desperation. People, objects, architecture and motifs are deliberately arranged in the works to convey a frantic tension. Brooks uses irony to mock the fact that the hygienic practices and commodities promising us ever easier, clean, authentic, and better ways to be so often lead to economic hardship and poor mental health.

  • Artwork Details: 197 x 177 x 4.5cm
  • Edition:
  • Material description: Acrylic on wood
  • Credit line: © the artist
  • Theme:
  • Medium: Painting
  • Accession number: ACC43/2018

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About the Artist

On Saturday 13 February, 2021, the Arts Council Collection hosted the first event for the Young People’s Collaborative Project, part of the National Partners Programme. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown, this launch event was hosted online via Zoom. It brought together members of the youth groups from the partner venues: Celebrate Different at Sunderland Culture, SEEN at Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, and YAK at Firstsite, Colchester and was facilitated by the youth-led and Bristol based Rising Arts Agency.

This was the first time for members from all three youth groups to meet, albeit over the internet, have an introduction to the Collection and begin thinking about their collaborative project. Arts Council Collection artists John Walter and Flo Brooks gave presentations to the group as part of the activities across the three hour event.

Prior to the event, artist Flo Brooks invited the young people to submit questions to him which he’d then respond to in a pre-recorded video which would be shared during the event. His willingness to answer “informal, intimate, challenging” questions was well and truly tested by our participants! Questions such as “how do you start the complex pieces”, and “do you work from photographs or memory?” allowed insight into his artists process, while others allowed for Flo to share more personal comments on his experiences as a queer, trans man. 

Using images of his works, together with archival photographs, sketches and found imagery, Flo put together a rich and varied slide show to illustrate his answers as captured in the two stills from the presentation below. 

You can read the full transcript from the Q&A here.

Find out more about the Young People's Collaborative Project Launch Event.

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The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.