Away with These Stultifying Bandages!, John Heartfield, 1932
World War I led John Heartfield to conclude that the only worthy art was that which took account of social realities. Using his bull crystalline camera (See posts August 9th 2008 and June 23rd 2012), he rephotographed newspaper imagery to capture the subjacent truths buried beneath its insidious manipulations of reality. John Heartfield believed much like Malcolm X that, "… the media control the minds of the masses…( and) …have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent…”
Though “taking account of social realities” does not necessarily mean promoting social causes, we had never believed that art should be in any kind of service. Our creative process, which generally begins with imagery that is imbued with highly focused rage allows us to progressively corrode through immediate and specific references, eventually arriving at universal, archetypal form.
Much has changed for us after having lived through a social crises and experienced first-hand the abusive, irreverent oppression of a self-serving, corrupt and violent regime. We find ourselves reluctant to abandon the specific localised references which have provoked our indignation and outrage. We are calling these raw and unseasoned pictures “Agitprop” and they have given our dioptric camera a noble and relevant purpose.
Inspired by Heartfield’s work we used our own bull crystalline camera to rephotograph the “bourgeois newspapers” of our time. The newspaper we selected is a local 4 “S” tabloid derived from the American model of phantastic journalism, “The National Enquirer”. In its role as the official voice of government, the proprietor publishes a completely free edition which is physically placed in the hands of hundreds of thousands of commuters each morning.
The front page story of the issue we have selected concerns a poster which the government’s goon squad observed in the home of Amir Khadir an opposition leader, during a routine raid of the “ideologically opposed” (known locally as “red squares”). A local peepee-caca pop music band had made the naughty poster from Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, inserting the face of the supreme ruler John Charade, on the body of a slain military soldier and the face of the opposition leader on the body of a revolutionary fighter waving a sword.
After the goon squad leaked to the media what it had observed in the opposition leader’s home, the “bourgeois newspapers” could begin to weave the gymnastic contortions necessary for the supreme ruler to appear briefly on the six o’clock news decrying the violence and intimidation implicit in the poster, and effectively displacing the highly focused and widely mediatised debate on violence from the real world of battered bodies, punctured eyes and fractured skulls to the world of cartoons.