art

Madness and Spectacle: The Yellow Vest Suite (Magazine Excerpt)

At the time my personal motivation in doing a whole suite of works was the aesthetic superseding the political. I was captivated by the sensuous images of darkness and colour shades that I tried to capture in these paintings and drawings. Multitudes of people wearing a loose uniform of greenish yellow starkly contrasted with the burning embers of street fires, and thick black smoke from various car chemicals and building materials being immolated, darkening the sky. So many monuments to France’s history are contrasted by a new revolutionary fervour. I was attempting to create a sort of protest impressionism, colour swatches in the darkness of smoke and the light of fire.

But perhaps this is too a sort of romanticism, an aesthetic expression of a yearning for political possibilities outside of the confines of Globo-liberalism, because the political-aesthetic picture of current times produced by Globo-liberalism is so bland, Kitschy, its regime-approved protest art so vulgar and dehumanising, from flat design humans to Banksy. In other words, it sells you empty left-liberal sentimentalism. But my paintings are not meant to create a new counter political-aesthetic. In hindsight, these works are merely cartographic, depictions of a historical moment done as faithfully as I could. Art as a dramatic record of events, a window into vivid scenes that didn’t quite seem real.

Since the petering out of the Yellow Vests, and the periodic riots and public demonstrations in France, over everything from climate change to changes in pension law, there seems to be a jadedness and morose character to the “active politics” of the French. Each one seems to devolve into a public dance party, a more spectacle-driven and violent form of the same cynical and exhausted symbolic politics that lurches forth in most of the Western world. The same people smashing windows and lighting cars on fire went right back and voted for Macron again.

This calls into question the nature of a true syncretism between fringe left and right political coalitions that meet in the middle of society through public political rituals of demonstration and protest. Perhaps it is true that these sorts of protests and public events are merely vanities, and real politics in globalised liberalism is far away and above the direct means of resistance ordinary citizens have. In other words, managerialism, more than tyranny and ideological millenarianism could ever dream of, did away with the concerns and whims of the crowd.

But in the end, the Yellow Vests provided striking images, and for a time, provided an aesthetic politics which could provide a template for further populist movements which cross-cuts ideological and cultural boundaries. The Yellow Vests were very much of the times we are living in now, because it is the image, the aesthetic more than anything, especially in the online world, which informs and contorts the political.

This is an excerpt from “Blast!”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


Photo Credit.

An Interview with Fen de Villiers (Magazine Excerpt)

Sam: A common criticism I hear from people on our side of the ‘cultural divide’, regarding Vorticists and Futurists, is that the avant-garde, as a concept, is antiquated. Do you think that’s true, or do you think people are being a bit too pessimistic about its potential?

Fen: Being pessimistic and cynical is something inherent to people who are more on the conservative spectrum, but I think that one must look back to go forward; you can clasp at the fire and the energy of a certain group or a certain movement, and then you can run forward with that. I don’t think it’s a case of saying, you look back at them and stay there.

I think that it’s going to take time, movements, and art styles to take a while to mature and find a new way. I don’t at all believe that we simply just have to take on what they do and just reside there.

Sam: In other words: “it’s not worship of the ashes, it’s the preservation of the fire.”

Fen: Yes, absolutely. I think what’s important is that if you are going to throw this forward – I mean, the futurists were, for example, very excited by the motorcar and the aeroplane and flight, because that was the period that they were in.

I don’t think we need to be excited by the aeroplane in the material sense. However, I think we can be excited about something. That visionary and Faustian spirit is deeply ingrained within our European psyche. I think we get excited about going on and going forward. I don’t think it’s a case of simply just regurgitating the platitudes or what they were doing. It’s about finding a place for that energy now.

It’s really about energy and celebrating force over death and decay; the latter of these is what the current regime works on. It’s the cult of the victim. This is not glorious stuff. This is not about going upwards towards something higher: this is about keeping you on the lowest level. For me, that is not how life is, that’s not how nature is: it is a lie. It’s not a culture that has any sort of fire in the belly. It doesn’t make you want to live.

This is an excerpt from “Blast!”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


Photo Credit: Fen de Villiers

My Vitalism (Magazine Excerpt)

In a world that is innately tragic, how does one remain cheerfully vital? There seems no end to the forces that wish to crush one’s joie de vivre.  Whether it’s the deadening omnipotence of the modern technocratic mode of organisation, the overbearing coddling of our moralistic culture, or just the old-fashioned primordial fate of the great tragedians and philosophers, we cannot escape an assault of forces intent of making us submit to despair.

The world often feels like a great slimy toad, sitting on our chests and allowing its toxic ooze to envelope our nostrils and lungs until we choke. How many people give in to it I wonder? Millions? How many human beings surrender their souls to the devilish incubus that haunts them? This is the primary question of human existence and one that has become pertinent to the present moment in art. In a high culture full of worthless slush that threatens to drown us all in its mediocrity and potent purposelessness, the moment of choice is thrust upon us all as individuals: either we swim to sweet terra firma or fall beneath the murky surface.

Yet, as old King Canute once showed us, the tide is never-ending. In a deeper, spiritual sense the assault of despair will never end. We die and suffer. Our loved ones die and suffer. Religions are exhausted and nations fall to ruins. Given this, do we still have the strength to embrace life?

This is an excerpt from “Blast!”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


Photo Credit.

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