procession, 2015, single-channel video, 38:59 min.
Courtesy of u/n multitude (Nikita Spiridonov)
In procession, a group of musicians and activists in a provincial shipyard town are walking along the main street leading down to the Volga river wearing paper hats. This work references a metaphor from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s book Multitude, who compare the collective complaints and requirements of organized protest movements to a choir singing in harmony, with every person pursuing their own particular goals in the fight against globalization. This interpretation of Multitude is ironically suggested by the cacophonic structure of procession. The musicians either play in harmony or discordantly, while the roaring activists are trying to imitate them, and some passersby who happen to join them follow the procession until they all finally immerse themselves in the river. It also refers to the totemic story of the Ship of Fools, which identifies the symptoms of times of change, and—as a contemporary symphony—to the parable by Ted Kaczynski bearing the same name.
This work problematizes the situation of a society following a “leader” or who makes populist gestures of greeting during the procession, but is blind behind the mask and follows the hints of a sly eminence grise. This political score was executed in 2015, before Trump and Bolsonaro came to power in the United States and Brazil respectively, and long before people covered their faces as a precaution against COVID-19. As many intellectuals suggest, global crises and uncertainty lead to the rise of right-wing populism. Byung-Chul Han, for example, observes: “As is widely known, fear is the cradle for autocracy. In a crisis, people long for strong leaders again. Viktor Orban is benefitting massively from it. It establishes the state of emergency as normal. And that is the end of democracy.” Not surprisingly, those same countries governed by right-wing politicians (and “strong” populist authoritarian leaders) are the ones where the COVID-19 situation is worst and that can’t cope with the pandemic due to lack of accessible healthcare. Our “Ship of Fools” is going to sink.
－ Curator ｜Ivan Isaev