A Political Idiom
Amanda Beech | Ella Ziegler | Matthew Burbidge | TC McCormack | Tee Byford
Amanda Beech’s State Line is an excoriating examination of the US Democratic Party’s links with the American-Italian mafia. Beech’s noir-ish fiction excavates the murderous corruption at the heart of American politics, and the politics at the heart of this corruption, finding its manifestation in a disorientating scenography of the nature-and-casino-lifestyle of the Cal Neva Lodge on the shores of Lake Tahoe, USA. The Lodge – once owned in part by Joe Kennedy, the ‘Rat Pack’ and Mafia boss Sam Giancana – was the scene of money laundering, FBI shenanigans and Monroe-Kennedy-DiMaggio dramas, enough to inspire the ‘Godfather’ books and movies. The state line runs through the swimming pool and cuts the Lodge in two. On one side, the American-Italian mafia controlled its interests in Las Vegas and California, as well as the American Midwest. On the other, Presidential party politics and personal intrigue eclipse this power. The decor of the place is old-style country opulent – Seventies’ Mafia kitsch. Together with sound and storyline, Beech’s video emphasizes the complexity of the concept of law and the images that manifest it, telling the entangled story of a life that crosses these different territories and interests. The video is accompanied by a suitably aggressive electronic music soundtrack especially composed for the piece. ‘State Line’ is from 2007.
Matthew Burbidge’s ‘RP01a’ makes a strong argument against the stratification of power and wealth within the international art context, notably calling Udo Kittelmann an ‘idiot’ because of the idiotic things he says and believes. ‘RP01a’ is an introduction to just a few of the goals that Radical Praxes will achieve if it is successful in defining a space for art production, dissemination and consumption free of the corruption that has come to typify German’s museum sector, hopelessly in thrall to imbeciles like Kittelmann, and to the commercial goals of a few international galleries. We aim to separate art from money. We aim to lead a new social class – that of art professionals worldwide – to redefine the very reasons for which people practice and consume art.
Matthew Burbidge’s ‘Dogheaded Man’ sits atop the black table in the midst of the exhibition: we believe that politics is run on principles very similar to those that make the mafia work. The ‘Dogheaded Man’ is of course either a representation of a gangster that has mastered their own particular ‘political idiom’, or a person attracted to that idiom and about the embark on the dangerous task of mastering it. We believe that the political idiom does not essentially change over time, but finds new linguistic manifestations, dependent on many contingent factors. The drives that cause Hillary Clinton to become president of the USA or that cause Tony Soprano to rise to the top of his gang are essentially the same. That is why Radical Praxes will also function as a model for study into new types of democratic representation. The group itself is modelled on Athenian democracy, with a heavy dose of Hannah Arendt.
Tee Byford is a designer living and working in the UK. His piece ‘The Social Mining Union’ is manifested in the exhibition via totemic objects that result from his wide-ranging ‘speculative design’ project of the same name.
The Social Mining Union (SMU) aims to reposition the role of the ‘labour union’ (and the function of positive activism) within the global context, examining the industrial mining industry and peripheral territories it is associated with.
Byford mined discarded objects from all over South East London’s New Cross, and websites such as Gumtree and Freecycle for discarded computers and other items: proceeding to sell his collected scrap back to local scrapyards. Using the money earned from these objects he bought shares in Glencore, a multinational commodity trading and mining company.
As a shareholder, Byford was able to infiltrate the May 2014 annual general meeting of Glencore, ‘designing’ himself as a major shareholder through business cards, SMU membership paraphernalia and a union website in order to be taken seriously. During the meeting he took the opportunity during the Q&A session to suggest routes to more positive economic, social and environmental impacts in the mining industry.
TCMcCormack is an artist who also works in the UK as an educator and PhD supervisor. He is an associate of Radical Praxes. His piece ‘Accessories Lemon Zest’ is made up of a photographic diptych juxtaposing what look like escaped snakes – but are actually hair extensions lying on the street in the aftermath of a riot involving young women – with an international art context gathering. It is itself paired with a sound piece on headphones in which TC McCormack enunciates the accessories that make up a third of the title. In terms of word count, that is. And isn’t word count everything these days?
Even in the sad squalor of the international art context, there is poetry to be made.
In fact, the squalor makes the poetry more powerful. Friedrich Nietzsche recognised something similar in an aphorism written for his book ‘Gözen-Dämmerung’.
And poetry’s main currency is now the legacy of Samuel Beckett.
Ella Ziegler is a Berlin based artist who one would like to call a ‘conceptual artist’ except that the term would be insufficient for the transcendence of her praxis. Conceptual artists of our day are just not very good at making artistic iterations, in the end just practising ‘illustration’ rather than ‘art’. Not so Ella Ziegler.
Her poster image is cribbed from a book about wrestling published in the 1950s.
If one translates A Political Idiom as Eine politische Redensart then the poster can be understood as a physical exchange of words. In this dialogue, one of the fighters already finds themselves out/ or outside the ring/ the arena. She has left the demarcated space of the discussion and is threatened by the second fighter in contravention of the rules.
The spectacle of single combat has always been a public form of the private duel. In regard to the title it fits very well. In parliaments of course the same thing is happening and outside of political arenas it is still just about the same thing: power = strength.
The women’s bodies clash in midair, forming an unmistakable ‘X’. ‘X’ is the identifying letter of Radical Praxes – its symbol, if you like. Radical Praxes’ graffiti iterations are based around this letter.
Ella has proposed a film that is based on cropped images from this book. It will be accompanied by a live performance on a full drum kit for the 2nd Finissage of ‘A Political Idiom’, which will be held outside, at night, and only by very special invitation.
The image of two Japanese women wrestling can be seen as a call to arms for Radical Praxes, apart from all the other associations it may provoke.
This project is a collaboration with Radical Praxes
exhibition: 16.08 – 01.09.2016