/Red-iness is part of a project ‘Subversion to Red’.
Directed by Nada Prlja
Speech acted by artists Briony Clarke and Sarah Cockings
Red-iness, series of video performances is conceived as an attempt to re-introduce socialist or Marxist ideals into today society. Prlja has selected a number of motivational speeches from the past. Work Red-iness: Robespierre quotes Stevo Žigon re-apropriation of Maximilien de Robespierre’s famous speech, while addressing students in Belgrade during protests in 1968. Video work Red-iness: Gestalt reintroduces famous scene from Dušan Makavejev’s W.R. Mysteries of the Organism (1971) film.
Prlja has invited artists Briony Clarke, Sarah Cockings and Kai-Oi Jay Yung, to collaboratively re-examine and question how far these re-enacted speeches might applicable and become a driving force for change in our time.
Red-iness is a series of video performances that explore the idea of ‘time collapse’ and the applicability of past concepts in the present.
In the film Early Works (1969) directed by Želimir Žilnik, excerpts from a letter written by Karl Marx to his friend and fellow political philosopher Arnold Ruge are read aloud:
…In the eyes of the despot, men are always debased. They drown before his eyes and on his behalf, in the mire of common life, from which they always rise up again. Muta pecora, prona et ventri oboedientia. [“The herd is silent, docile and obeys its stomach.”]
For our part, it is our task to drag the old world into the full light of day and to give positive shape to a new one…
Early Works was conceived as an attempt to re-introduce Marxist ideals to the demoralised, devalued and unsophisticated form of Socialism that existed in former Yugoslavia in the 1960s. Similar re-appropriations of certain motivational speeches were carried out in public life at the time. For example, Žilnik filmed actor Stevo Žigon addressing students in Belgrade during protests in 1968, capturing him re-reading Maximilien de Robespierre’s famous speech from the French Revolution.
In Žilnik’s film and Žigon’s speech we witness how certain concepts can be applicable and become a driving force for change in different times and conditions. A new video work presented at Calvert 22 embodies this process, whilst raising the question of how far these re-enacted speeches might still be relevant today.
“…Nada Prija’s work is part of a five-year-plan that proposes to “revive the notion of idealism in contemporary society as an alternative form of motivation”, and she is equally concerned with the principle of “reactivating” – in this case old socialist forms of organisation. She explores these through the art institution, a platform she finds open to revising its internal working methods. For Calvert 22, she has curated a public event, the Red Discussion, where five thinkers discussed Marxist theories in the aim to deconstruct former models and flesh out aspects that may be applicable today. The resulting ideas were written over the surface of a pentagonal table, and for the duration of the exhibition visitors are welcome to add thoughts.
Prija’s video performances under the title Red-iness further probe these issues by exploring the concept of “time collapse” (the ways in which past ideas can be transposed into the present), and she re-enacts excerpts of speeches by Robespierre during the French Revolution, and later Stevo Zigon during the Belgrade student protests of 1968. The outcome, however, is a somewhat cryptic piece that is perhaps a little too disingenuous as far as its institutional critique goes, especially given the extraordinarily well-educated profile of its Red Discussion participants…”