Tuesday, 13 October 2009

welfare state

'The project developed by Democracia conceives the staging of the demolition of this marginal community as a performance for all members of civil society. Over and above considerations such as the disappearance of specific cultural forms (that of the gypsy culture), the civil society celebrates the disappearance of the ghetto via a media performance. The “integrated” civil society are the hooligans who applaud the action of the diggers demolishing the ghetto. The path of the marginalized society is its integration in the spectacular consumption society, which will assure them of their basic rights.'

If you made it through that paragraph, I applaud you. If you're interested in reading this sort of thing, there's a whole lot more where that came from here. What is it about contemporary artists that makes them utterly unable to resist this kind of pseudo-intellectual, vacuous and insipid justification of their work? The funny thing is that I think the project the above paragraph is referring to is actually quite good. It's a video called 'Welfare State' which takes the demolition of the El Salobral slums in Madrid and turns it into a bizarre, WWF-like, spectator sport. The concept is extended through presentation. When I watched the four-screen video at the Rochelle School during London Design Festival, it was sitting on the steps of bleachers. A clever bit of self-referencing meta-theatricality at work - it doesn't need the essayistic jargon of its long winded artistic defence. When will artists realise that good work is more than strong enough to stand on its own and speak for itself.

Aside from bonus points for craftsmanship - it's well shot and edited with a perfect soundtrack - the film is fantastic because it's clever and touches on a universal, if creepy, truth about human nature. We're rubberneckers: annoyingly, insatiably curious - especially when it comes to death and destruction. Conrad called it the 'fascination of the abomination'. It's the lady glued to CNN in the days after 9/11 or the crowds of people who gather every time a Vegas casino goes up in smoke. Whatever the reason, Democracia's video takes this obsessive need to watch even though we probably shouldn't and throws it back in our faces, forcing us to be aware of the fact that we are spectating on something that should not be made into public entertainment. This is vastly powerful stuff - it doesn't need to be weighed down with overloaded tracts by the artists.

I haven't been able to find a copy of the actual video online, but this little 'making of' provides a half-decent representation of the overall installation.

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