An installation in which the oscillations in UK public service policy over the last century are re-enacted by an inner circle of electric massage chairs under the seedy glow of red, and then blue, neon.

Six electronic massage chairs are arranged in a circle, facing inwards, as though set for the meeting of a high council. Each chair represents a key ‘public’ service or industry: Health, Railways, Gas, Electricity, Telecoms and Post.

Illuminating the scene is a neon-style display, methodically scrolling through the dates of the last century (from 1900 – 2011), over the course of quarter of an hour. The colour of the neon changes depending on which political party is in power in the UK at that time, flooding the room with a different coloured light and with that, a very different atmosphere…

During this 15-minute period, the massage chairs ‘switch on’ at the dates in which their corresponding service or industry was taken into public ownership and ‘switch off’ again at the date when / if they were privatised. Visitors to the exhibition are free to relax on the chairs at any point.

A Brief History of Privatisation was created and first installed as part of Harrison’s solo exhibition at Watermans in London from 12 March – 2 May 2011, where it was shown alongside two installations developed in 2009 in response to the global financial crises – Vending Machine and Toytown.

The installation then toured to Inspace in Edinburgh from 4 August – 4 September 2011 as part of the group exhibition Left To My Own Devices at Edinburgh Art Festival. Finally it toured to Vane in Newcastle from 1 November – 17 December 2011 for Harrison’s solo show Market Forces at Wunderbar Festival, where it was shown alongside A History of Financial Crises and Transactions from 2009.

Harrison collaborated with comedian Josie Long to create an alternative ‘tour’ of the installation for Edinburgh Art Festival and Wunderbar Festival. A film of the Newcastle ‘tour’ was made by 14c Studio (above) and a film of the Edinburgh ‘tour’ was made by Daniel Warren as part of the Detours project by Trigger.

Photo: Ben Wickerson