The repetition of a gesture. This leads to?
Ritual. The spilling of champagne in a gesture that is associated with victory.
This ritual is commonly found in grand prix, la tour de France etc.
„Victory“ takes places in Berlin, using the monuments of different times and epochs as the backdrop for the repetition of this particular gesture.
The roots of this idea date back to spring/summer 2009. I am only getting ready to explore this now (as a video work) in summer 2011. Dhalaristan came in the middle of it.
However, the idea behind the piece – the repetition of a gesture until something begins to shift in its meaning – was also explored in the Dhalaristan project – although not as much as I would have liked.
Why Berlin? Why monuments in Berlin?
Berlin has a military past. It was fundamentally important as the seat of the Hohenzollerns from the middle ages onwards. Later, as capital of Prussia, a large part of its urban architecture was shaped by military ideas – the so-called „mietekaserne“ apartments arose from barrack design. Public spaces like Pariser Platz were designed for military parades. Monuments celebrating military victories too. Through the periods that followed the Prussian era, including the Weimar Republik, the Nazi period, the divided city east and west, through to the re-united city for the last 20 years, a variety of historical events have been celebrated and monumentalised by various urban planners.
Many of these monuments are in direct opposition with each other. They speak for the ideologies that created them. In the composite city of Berlin today, not all of these monuments are understood or appreciated in their original, intended context. This for me already raises interesting, amusing questions about how they could be used differently.
I would like to play with various gestures, to see at what point a movement or gesture becomes ritualised and why/to what end this occurs. The spilling of champagne in a ritualised, ejaculatory manner has become associated with victory in the arena of (motor) sports and some other areas, but why?
On the other hand, maybe the ritual action is more about the monuments themselves. What do they deserve/demand? The placing of flowers? Regularly cleaned and swept? Anti-graffiti materials or paint? Military parades in front of them? Or to be forgotten as the monstrous remnants of past regimes? Embarrassments that are demolished as soon as it is discovered they are contaminated with asbestos? Or to be treated as day-trip and free-tour tourist fodder, to be posed in front of for facebook-friendly photographs?
That’s why the victory gesture is interesting to me. It doesn’t stand for anything in particular, but something masculine, and by implication, aggressive and dominant is expressed. Is it the spilling of necessary blood? A sacrifice before the altars of past epochs? An ejaculation that clears the muddle of the past? Cutting to the chase and cutting out the foreplay of appreciating/understanding/participating in the past and the monuments – frozen moments – that those people of the past periodically spewed out?
Maybe the victory gesture is equalising, because it’s the same every time. Also, when every monument is treated the same way, are we delivering an equal measure of respect to the historical events celebrated? Or just treating monuments nicely? A gesture of respect, a gesture of acknowledgement of all the people who once believed in the narrative that was explained, made coherent, by the monument.
At the same time, I imagine “Victory” as a guerrilla action, a graffiti of sorts, where the monuments are reclaimed as sites of “victory”, action, dominance – they are somehow re-activated, re-used. Imagine me as a character, some loose cannon from a collage the past epochs who celebrates victory, pure and simple. “Victory for victory’s sake in a military city”.
But by celebrating victory as a guerrilla action, where I run into shot, explode a bottle of expensive champagne in front of a monumental structure, then continue to run out of shot, onto the next monument, all the monuments are reduced to fundamentally the same function. Subversively.