Art; Signs of the Times

’Signs of the Times, A coded his­tory of alpha­bets and com­mu­nic­a­tion’ is a series of works by artist Paul Flack who col­lab­or­ated with me on hid­den mes­sages and codes in art:

Inspired by the com­plex evol­u­tion of alpha­bets, words and sym­bols sculptor Paul Flack has been inter­ested in lan­guage and its mean­ing for many years. Cryptic mean­ing suf­fuses his work, which is a blend of words and sym­bols from many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. Hiero­glyphs and runes jostle for space with mod­ern alpha­bets and bin­ary code on painted can­vasses, stone carvings and sculp­tures. The out­come is a flu­id mix­ture of man-made mean­ing and uni­ver­sal, geo­met­ric shapes.

Paul’s col­lab­or­a­tion with Annie Machon — a lead­ing civil liber­ties act­iv­ist and former MI5 intel­li­gence officer — has enabled him to take his under­stand­ing of codes, cen­sor­ship and the secret­ive side of lan­guage to a new level.

We live in an age of spoon-fed inform­a­tion and extreme cen­sor­ship. I want people to think about the ori­gins of lan­guage and how it binds cul­tures togeth­er, as opposed to sep­ar­at­ing them” — Paul Flack

It’s a cliché, but you really should­n’t believe everything you read. His­tory is writ­ten by the vic­tori­ous and today’s rul­ing élite is cer­tainly no less ruth­less in its approach to secrecy and cen­sor­ship.” — Annie Machon

If this sounds a bit con­tro­ver­sial, all the bet­ter. Some altern­at­ive views of recent events are encoded into the work, and if you look hard enough you will find them.

“Of course, what you do with the inform­a­tion is up to you,” — Paul Flack

Coda: Sadly, Paul died unex­pec­tedly in 2008.  His was a rare and beau­ti­ful spir­it, and he is much missed by his many friends.

Organisations I’m involved with


I sup­port and work with a num­ber of organ­isa­tions that share my con­cerns about account­ab­il­ity and trans­par­ency in areas such as intel­li­gence and secur­ity, the failed war on drugs, free­dom of inform­a­tion, human rights, pri­vacy issues, civil liber­ties, and the war on terror.

The Cam­paign for Press and Broad­cast­ing Free­dom, which does what it says on the tin! One of the cam­paign organ­isers, Barry White, is cur­rently on the NEC of the UK Nation­al Uni­on of Journ­al­ists, and writes a great blog: www​.fromthenecup​.org​.uk.  Here’s a link to a piece I’ve just writ­ten on my website.


200px-Piratpartiet.svg Pir­ate Party (NL).  Affil­i­ated to the Pir­ate Parties Inter­na­tion­al, this group cam­paigns around issues such (digit­al) civil liber­ties, trans­par­ency, pri­vacy and copy­right.  PPNL fielded can­did­ates in the Dutch gen­er­al elec­tion in 2010.  Shortly before the elec­tion, I was invited to provide some media train­ing to the candidates.


Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP).

Pro­hib­i­tion has nev­er worked, as proven through­out his­tory. And now around the world many judges,lawyers, pris­on gov­ernors, and officers from police, cus­toms, and intel­li­gence organ­isa­tions, as well as many oth­er experts, are chal­len­ging the failed concept of the “war on drugs”.   This policy, in place for dec­ades now in many coun­tries des­pite its mani­fest, abject and repeated fail­ure, crim­in­al­ises great swathes of our pop­u­la­tions, causes health prob­lems, social prob­lems and untold suf­fer­ing, and funds organ­ised crime and ter­ror­ist groups.  It is time for a mature, calm debate about the issue, rather than hys­ter­ic­al, tabloid headlines.

I am hon­oured to be one of this group speak­ing out, and now to be work­ing as the Dir­ect­or of LEAP, Europe.


Make Wars His­tory is a non-profit peace group that aims to end war by uphold­ing the inter­na­tion­al and nation­al laws that make war­fare illeg­al under any con­di­tion except self-defense. It spe­cific­ally seeks account­ab­il­ity for the illeg­al and dis­astrous inva­sion of Iraq and a form­al invest­ig­a­tion of the people who were instru­ment­al in start­ing it. Here’s the launch of the cam­paign in the Houses of Par­lia­ment in Janu­ary 2008.