Freee is the collective title for London-based artists Dave Beech (born Warrington, 1965), Andy Hewitt (born Hull, 1966) and Mel Jordan (born London, 1966). Collaborating under various guises before beginning to work exclusively as Freee in 2004, Beech, Hewitt and Jordan draw on Jürgen Habermas' model of the public sphere - which looks towards creating space where debate can occur - and are interested in the various modes of public protest. Freee uses a variety of media - postcards, t-shirts, online videos and billboards to name a few - and invest its chosen medium with polemical slogans and attitudes.
While provocative titles and statements underpin the collective's practice - in works such as The Concept of Public Space, Beloved of Lonely Myopic Law-abiding Right-on Gushing Morons, Can Only Imagine the Public as a Mass of Bodies (2007) - these slogans plainly state Freee's political motivations with a directness that demands the observer take a critical position in response. Freee has also enlisted other figures in its productions. In one such instance the group approached comedian Norman Collier with a script consisting of a list of slogans, and asked Collier to perform the work in the style of his notorious 'broken microphone' routine - resulting in the short video Have You Heard About the One About the Public Sphere (2006).
Since 2004, Freee has been developing a series of billboard and poster works. In pieces such as The Economic Function of Public Art is to Increase the Value of Private Property (2004), and The Neo-Imperialist Function of Public Art is to Clear a Path for Aggressive Economic Expansion (2005), the group use the visibility of these billboard spaces to critical and often comic affect. The latter work was photographed in its original site, then fly-posted as a new image on another billboard. The process was then repeated, until the image was subsumed within the 'Droste Effect': becoming a billboard within a billboard within a billboard. The design of these billboards employs colours and fonts recommended by 'futures' research, studies which predict future trends.
Beech, Hewitt and Jordan have recently begun to appear in the billboard images, underscoring their collective presence as a means of intervention. And for Nought to Sixty, Freee have designed a new work in this spirit entitled Protest Drives History (2008), which will appear on a wall of the ICA Bar and on a billboard in an off-site location. Using a photograph taken in one of the UK's biggest quarries, the monumental scale of the environment belies the size of Freee's own five-metre long banner depicting the title statement. The seemingly simple nature of Freee's slogans, and their reproducibility, allows for a casual and repeated dissemination across various media and sites - from large billboards, to photographic documentation, to ephemeral postcards and magazines. Freee's strategies undermine the uniqueness of the original aesthetic encounter, dispersing the experience of the work across a number of formats, and promoting the message of the collective over the individual, while also retaining the conviction behind each message.