House for an Art Lover until May 7th
If revolution is a carnival for the people that begins at closing time (lock-in permitting), being stuck in an endless cycle of rhetoric-heavy rabble-rousing meetings can bleed the barricade-hopping romance out of rebellion to bollock-shrivelling numbness. Time, then, to throw in an arsenal of slow-burning grenades to lighten things up as samizdat as you like, subverting from within using doodles in the margins of official documents to create other republics.
This is what Glasgow-born artist Scott Caruth found when he went rummaging through the archive of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in Modena, Northern Italy. Forged out of a leftist schism in 1921 and led by Antonio Gramsci, outlawed during fascist rule, and once the largest communist party in the western world, the PCI ended as it began in 1991: with a split.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, manifestos, minutes of meetings and other PCI documents were scrawled on by bored party members taking advantage of what was possibly an institutional monopoly on paper. Reappropriated here both on the walls of the House for an Art Lover’s project space and in a zine-like publication, the unknown artists of the PCI are recast as avant-gardists of the everyday.
Cartoon Neanderthals with clubs give chase in an image that resembles the satirical swish of proper comic-strip auteurs Jules Feiffer or Sergio Aragones, empty speech bubbles hovering above them like clouds. On the back wall, a pair of bent-over arses face away from each other, a lit fuse in one looking dangerously close to letting rip. Such friezes farting out silent-but-deadly metaphorical raspberries before any implied explosion occurs recalls the agit-prop pratfalls and revolutionary clowning of Dario Fo, the Italian theatrical and political provocateur.
Some of these images appear in the publication alongside typed-out transcripts from a meeting of some ideological import. On the other side of the paper, bringing things up to date and close to home, a recent work-related email sees Caruth attempt to inquire why he has been sacked for merely suggesting better pay and conditions. The struggle, it seems, goes on.
On a windy day, alas, sometimes the exposed project space shelves—in which copies of Caruth’s A5 opus are housed—prove too flimsy for a breeze that causes them to be scattered like campaign leaflets dropped from on high. If the answer is blowing in the wind like this, such intimations of liberation looks destined to remain on the margins, probably talking Italian.
MAP, May 2018