MARCH 1 - APRIL 30 2019

“The human voice is the most powerful form of communication, in which tonality is key. By recording messages for Europe, I want to capture the humanity of the general public, and the voices that I feel have been lost to the debate surrounding Brexit. I believe this archive has an important role to play in our understanding of this moment as we experience it now, and when looking back in the future.”  - Joe Sweeney  


Joe Sweeney’s most ambitious work to date - +44 ‘Leave a Message for Europe’ is a 28 day long interactive, site-specific and simultaneous digital installation, which seeks to create a poignant, diverse and historically significant vocal representation of the public’s hopes and fears surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union. 


The installation encourages the participation of the general public, who are invited to recording their feelings as answer phone messages during the final fours weeks’ countdown to Brexit.  The project, named after Britain’s international dialling code, centers around a sculpture, inspired by the 1990s BT telephone box, installed on Dungeness beach, Kent, the most south-easterly point of the UK and it’s only desert. The sculpture will act as a beacon - a nostalgic call to action, encouraging public participation in a project that addresses an event largely fuelled itself by nostalgia.  


For the duration of its installation, the physical sculpture will be filmed and live-streamed via a corresponding website (, opening up the channels of communication beyond its physical location. Visitors to the digital counterpart, will be prompted to call and leave a message. Recordings will form the project’s vocal archive, accessible both throughout the 28 ‘live’ days of the project, and later remaining as a permanently accessible time capsule of this pivotal moment in history.

Participation will be reinforced by a digital campaign conjuring iconography associated with British popular culture, street culture and pre Y2K era advertisements.  By use of this pre millennium aesthetic, Sweeney parallels another moment in our near history of uncertainty for the future.  Playing on our national appetite for nostalgia, the sculpture stands as a monolithic embodiment of isolationism and chartering the unknown, bringing a poetic melancholic lust that is hardwired in the British psyche.   
Continuing the artists ongoing fascination with coastal British identity as the ‘last outposts of regeneration’ Dungeness’s location enhances the metaphorical implications of the sculpture as a modern relic – an isolated and fading fixture of daily British life that stands as a bastion against change and regeneration. Not only is Dungeness the most south-easterly point of the UK, but has become known for its desolate and evocative appearance: as ‘Britain’s only desert’, it carries a profound sense of isolation, described by its most famous resident, the late Derek Jarman, as, “... a landscape of past endeavours”.  While it is installed in this wild and unsheltered environment, the sculptural replica of a near extinct urban motif, will be subjected to natural elements that will cause the untreated metallic components to naturally age and rust. This slow but certain degradation of the sculpture will cause it to emerge over time as a physical record of its difficult environment.  
+44 ‘Leave a message for Europe’  is directly inspired by a current political landscape; it is fuelled by the intensity of emotion that has gripped Britain, and the scrutiny under which ‘national identity’ is currently being placed. Sweeney seeks to challenge online debate and giving a real voice back to public opinions. Capturing the live emotion and personality of the British Public, departing from the impersonal echo chamber of written commentary that has surrounded the whole debate, and how for the most part we interact today.  In an environment of, predominantly, online debate that has become increasingly polarised and aggressive, manipulative and unhealthy, and in which nuances of the voice are drowned out by a throng of divisive and partisan ‘posts’, Sweeney aims to create a neutral forum, where the individual can once again feel confident they can speak openly, and will be heard. 





March 1, 2019