Welcome to hell - Undercover female artists new book exposes arms trade culture


From the 10 – 13 September London hosts one of the worlds largest international arms fairs DSEI at Excel London. To coincide with the event, the undercover artist Jill Gibbon launches her new book, Etiquette of the Arms Trade - Undercover Drawings

For the past ten years British artist Jill Gibbon has drawn undercover in arms fairs in the UK, Europe, USA and the Middle East observing the truth behind an industry that purports to be responsible, gender-equal and progressive. In her new book, the artist demonstrates that their industry claims are far from the truth.

Accessing the Arms Fairs - the artist as arms consultant

The artist has accessed the arms fairs by dressing up as an arms trader, with a suit, fake pearls, and a sham company. Inside the secretive fairs, Gibbon draws the absurd lengths the industry will go to sell bombs, tanks and missiles and any other military kit you can imagine. The artist has witnessed:

  • String Quartets playing on the back of military truck whilst ‘government and military consumers’ choose their instruments of war

  • Young pretty women are used as ‘eye candy’ and stand in front of missiles to attract the male buyers

  • A new range of tanks were promoted with a fashion show

  • Corporate men in suits ‘trying out guns and weapons as if they were in combat.

  • A heavy macho drinking culture is encouraged with bottomless alcohol resulting in members of the trade blind drunk and vomiting

  • Crass corporate giveaways include sweets with the slogan ‘welcome to hell’ Tank and bomb stress balls and condoms with the slogan ‘The ultimate protection’

It’s the very drinking culture that has enabled the artist to go unnoticed at these events. The artist says: ‘Whilst cameras and video is strictly forbidden at these events, there is so much drinking in the afternoon, people don’t notice I'm drawing’ Jill Gibbon

The artist is currently exhibiting at the https://artthearmsfair.com exhibition in Peckham, London from 3-13 September. An exhibition of activist artworks and auctioned fundraiser.

Launch details: Beam Editions, London Art Book Fair, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 5 – 8 September

Buy the book here

A few facts about the arms trade

The international Arms Trade is worth $31 Billion dollars with the USA leading the pack contributing 9.9bn dollars. The trade has been increased by a third since 2002.

The arms industry says it offers defence while selling to repressive regimes, and countries involved in aggressive wars. The UK has sold £6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the start of the Yemen war including fighter jets and munitions.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people including children and civilians; millions more face starvation and disease with the collapse of infrastructure. UK and US made weapons have been found in the debris. How are these deals legitimized?

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jonathan casciani