On Site review
search

on site review group

back issues

34: on writing

33: on land

32: weak systems

31: mapping | photography

30: ethics and publics

29: geology

28: sound online

28:sound links site

 

27: rural urbanism

27:rural urbanism online

 

on site 26: DIRT onlineonsite 25: identity online

onsite 24: migration onlineonsite 23: small things online

read onsite 22: WAR online

On Site 22: WAR has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online

read onsite 21: weather online

read onsite 20: museums and archives onlineonsite 20 individually archived articles

onsite 20:museums and archives has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online

read onsite 19: streets onlineOn Site 19 has sold out in the print version, but you can read it online.

onsite 19 individually archived articles

read onsite 18: culture onlineonsite 18 individually archived articles

onsite17 individually archived articles

Entries in resistance (4)

Wednesday
Feb152017

Richard Hughes, RCGrimewave, 2011

Richard Hughes, RCGrimewave, 2011

Found this image while looking at something else, as is the way it goes.  It isn't a new piece, but hands have been a lot in the news the past few days, mostly shaking agressively, controllingly, powerfully.

This Hughes piece, a giant pressed cardboard fist propped up against a clean gallery wall, is part of a series in this journal, of hands used as political expression.

The hand is the last thing one can speak with after the voice has gone, after its writing has been banned; a fist can still be formed, until it too is cut off.
Resistance — how the closed fist held up, palm out, is a withholding of the hand and its ability to work.  It is passive, sullen, unyeilding: it isn't a horizontal punch, it is a flag held up in a massive objection to whatever circus it finds itself in.  

It surprises me, this, thinking of other signs of hand protest, especially the V — palm out, first two fingers open, the third lightly held by the thumb.  This is a flag that is so open, so optimistic that openness will prevail — the future is coming and it is full of light.  Churchill when he knew he was winning the war, Vietnam protesters who knew they could change government through sheer numbers, but it was never the flag of the Civil Rights Movement: that was the closed fist, with its obdurance and its passive weight.

-------------

But, this is art, not propaganda. Richard Hughes finds things in his own territory on the basis of how they 'have reached this state of uselessness, and how well they can be used now to deliver a narrative or depict something'.  This is from a long and absorbing conversation with Martin Clarke about his work.  Having found bottles, bits of plumbing pipe, cardboard, old sheds: things of little value but spied by Hughes at a moment of their descent into detritus, he chooses them, rearranges them a bit, makes a rubber mould of them, casts them in resin, sometimes bronze, and then paints the cast to look like the original.  There are two narratives here: the decay of things, and the arrest of decay by transformation into some other medium. The cardboard fist 'looks like' a cardboard fist, but is actually a sculpture of a cardboard fist.  

At art school in the 90s and with an MA from Goldsmiths in 2002, there is more than a little punk sensibility to Hughes' work.  The found objects, often unlovely; the unsentimental process by which they are made gallery-worthy (this after a generation of the ripping of art off the gallery wall and shoving it out in the street or turning it into performance), he finds boring. He'd pay someone to do it, but he 'can make a mould properly' so why not just get on with it.  It's his job.

He uses bronze for little things, like a collection of spitballs, but uses resin, a particularly inexpensive, blank and characterless material, for most of his pieces.  The unpainted cast is sheer form, the painted surface is a thin skin of narrative that contains all the romance of the processes of attrition, all the tragedy of waste, all the poetics of things without function that persist in littering our landscapes.  The original objects carry some sort of charge for Hughes – it's how he chooses him.  They are transformed by industrial and mechanical processes that deliver that charge into a gallery space.  The objects are legitimised by their simulacra.   I could be wrong, I haven't seen the work, I wasn't in Glasgow in 2012 when the fist was shown at Tramway 2, I only know the image, above, but I sense that this is a hard critique of how we value things only when they have been given the gloss of permanence.

One can critique a system (the Gallery, the Museum, the Art Market) with completely subversive works.  The half-rotted running shoe sprouting grass: cast it in resin, paint it to look like the original which deems it a sculpture because of the methods of its manufacture – a process that seemingly bypasses the existential narrative of the running shoe itself.  And what of that narrative – it is neither unimportant, nor irrelevant.  The 'charge' that Hughes talks about is still there, now primed to go off in that most rarified air of the white-walled gallery. 

Tuesday
Aug212012

a change is gonna come


Sam Cooke - A change is gonna come by hopto

One of the proposals for On Site 28: sound is about recording studios and their particular qualities of surface and such.  Sam Cooke was mentioned.

We were in English in grade 9 and Judy Butler who sat behind me told me Sam Cooke had died.  This 1963 song, A Change is Gonna Come, sat, and still sits, at the heart of the Civil Rights movement.   

1963 was an important year: Martin Luther King wrote 'Letter from Birmingham Jail', the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham and four little girls were killed, King's 'I Have a Dream' speech was made in Washington, Medgar Evers was murdered.  Not until the formation of the Black Panthers in 1967 did black power begin to overtake black faith that a change was going to come.

And, still thinking of things Olympic, it was at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City that the 200m gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, shared a pair of black gloves and made their stand for human rights.  Last night on the Radio Australia's Asia Pacific Report, there was a piece about the silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, who also wore a human rights badge in solidarity and was subsequently reprimanded by the AOC and not sent to any further Olympic games. His 1968 200m record of 20.06 seconds still stands in Australia.  Evidently there is a debate in the Australian Parliament about apologising to him, although he died in 2006. 

Why do people wait until someone dies, before their time in this case - he was only 64, before admitting they treated them badly? 

Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium as the US anthem was playing, at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. They all wore the badge of the Olympic Committee for Human Rights, OCHR.

Friday
Nov042011

at the sign of the fist

NEHouse. painted fist, 2009

The fist of solidarity.  No letters here, just a clenched hand as a measure of intent.  Wikipedia tells us it dates from ancient Assyria as 'a symbol of resistance in the face of violence'.  It was adopted by the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, in 1917.  It was the Republican salute in the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39, and the salute of Smith and Carlos at the 1968 Olympics during the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.  It has become a symbol for human rights.

All of these symbols originate as demonstrations against violence.  The fist works two ways: one as a punching fist, the other as a stilled hand: closed, the opposite of the open hand of the nazi salute.  It is almost as if there is an implicit threat in the fist which can be a weapon but which actually comes from numbers, rather than any threat of individual action.

All the symbols this week have been against violence at the state level: civil and human rights, disenfranchisement, discriminatory policies.  And while not all are ancient symbols, none of them are new; they aren't brands thought up by a marketting agency.  Somehow these symbols carry a great dignity with them; their original intentions are so powerful that their message bypasses the intellect.  I do wonder if this bypass of the intellect is not at the root of power, and can be used for both good and ill.

 

The golden fist of Qahdafi crushing an American jet, 1986. Tripoli

Below is a stencilled version of the sign for Autonomism, which is allied with socialism, marxism and anarchism, influenced by the Situationists and has a number of autonomist wings in several European countries.  As the word suggests, it favours autonomous action against the structures and processes of capitalism, rather than an sort of organised mass movement.  It appears to be more guerilla-like, under the radar, with activities such as absenteeism.  But they have a sign.  

Autonome, at the Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Vienna, Austria

 

Friday
Aug262011

writing and power

Bab Al Aziziya compound monument, Tripoli. August 23 2011