are you awake?

Art of Deception


The Prime Minister was covered head to toe in a thick layer of glue and glitter. His aides were busily trying to protect the carpet, as he stood there half naked with his arms outstretched, but they were struggling to cope and sparkly sticky stuff was getting everywhere. The PM smiled mischievously in the direction of his Minister for Education, who had just arrived at Number 10 that Monday morning.

“A very good morning to you Edward! What are we doing for the precious young minds of the world this week then?”

Edward Merceron-Shaw had really no idea what his boss was up to with all the PVA glue, but by now he had learnt to trust Gordon Shrigley. Since his rise to power on the back of his now historic Manifesto of the Imagination, Shrigley had sparked something of a cultural renaissance across Europe. People seemed to be thriving and were deeply optimistic about the future.

“Hello Prime Minister. Well with all the funding released, we can start planning the fifty thousand Centres for Kindness and Creative Collaboration. Tuition fees will be abolished on Wednesday and we’re announcing the trebling of teachers’ pay.”

As it turns out you can do rather a lot with 130 billion pounds. And anyway, it’s not like we were ever going to actually use the Trident nuclear arsenal. As long as people still think you’ve got nuclear weapons then surely the story itself works as a deterrent? Shrigley liked to think of this grand deception of his as installation art—a trompe l’oeil of international proportions, the truth known by only a select few. And even the Americans had no idea.

“Now that is good news Edward! About bloody time with the teachers’ pay!”

The Prime Minister gestured to one of his aides to scratch his nose for him. It appeared that he was trying not to move much at all whilst he did whatever it was that he was doing this morning.

“Yes quite sir. Well if it’s all the same to you I’ll leave you to it and head over to Whitehall. Busy week sir.”

“Of course Edward. Thanks for the update.”

The Minister for Education turned to leave the room, stepping carefully over various piles of obscure objects, pictures and poems from school children, and a half folded t-shirt with the word ‘Bliar’ printed across the front. Just before reaching the open door, he looked over his shoulder and said: 

“Oh by the way, Michael Gove is in the drawing room—he’d like to see you apparently.”

“Would he now? He’s been pestering me for a role on the Arts Council ever since I took him to that Black Flag gig last year. Better send him in. Perhaps he’s finally ready to crack open his imagination!”

Edward smiled and walked out of the Prime Minister’s office. He was thinking about the future—imagining a world where everyone actually had enough food, shelter, education and healthcare; a world where people worked as hard to grow compassion as they now do to accumulate personal capital; a world that was safe enough for his boss to admit that actually, we don’t have any nuclear weapons left. 


Paul Burrows


Article also appears on Conscious 2


This short, short story was written in response to artist Gordon Shrigley’s tweeted questions: “How are we to think the future? Why are we surrounded by a paucity of alternative narratives? What can we do about it?” Shrigley is standing as MP for the Hackney South and Shoreditch constituency in the upcoming 2015 UK general election. His campaign slogan is: “I’m from your imagination and I’m here to help”.