Saturday, September 18, 2010

MY SHOVEL: meditations on rifle-performance.

The first paper after this summer adventures must obviously be about MY RIFLE. Further I would shortly outline my ongoing meditations about that performance, and the progress it led me to: Alina and work in St. Petersburg come next.

The point where motivation for The Rifle was generated was connected with my inability to join Kvae festival in Norway, and with the obvious need to practice. I knew I was going to do my visit to Russia, and in my dialogues with friends the subject of army (which I was thinking to join later at that point) was gaining importance. My position of militarist was explicit in the Pleasures of Physical Immediacy, where the idea of overidentification with contemporary nationalism was a key. Although militarism and national identity in today’s Russia are fascinatingly difficult questions, which cannot be approached with nativity  which is comfortable to my protagonist. In this performance I tried to tackle another side of naive politics.

My Rifle is much closer to Alina than Degree Show installation. Firstly for the exploration of object-relations, that is still one of my key obsessions. The text I am reading there at the beginning, laying on the ground as Kubrik’s army man (dressed like Vanessa Beekroft’s girl): “This is my rifle. My rifle is my best friend, There are many rifles like this, but this one is mine...” – it is a fantastic prayer from Full Metal Jacket, which is quite curiously parallel with what Rodchenko proposed to be the whole new communist story: relation to objects as comrades, treating, for example, working tools as comrades  because they are helping to create new communist future: follow similar goal.


Of course futurism of Kubrick’s prayer is of the different kind: “my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviours of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace.” A rifle is a friend with a goal to save self, defend country till the total destruction of the enemy. I think pretty all national stories can fit in into the simple model of comradeship of a man and a gun. The simplicity of this comradeship is striking in comparison to Rodchenko’s tool-comrade:  mutual dependence is a keynote of this relation.

In My Rifle I tried to act as a nihilist in response to “defend my country” model. I was also interested in performing my double-nationalism of being both British and Russian. So somehow the act of burial of the gun could be understood even as syndromic, post-cold war anxiety. Attempt to bury militarist argument? Nevertheless, militarist tension, tool, best friend of mine, the gun - is buried in a double-flag roll of Union Jack and Russian Tricolor. 

Sewing two flags was an important gesture. To make them inseparable firstly, secondly to equalise – as in a way music was planned to do. I choose two famous military marches– Grenadiers’ Song and Preobrazhensky March the music that is associated with parades and Head of the States ceremonies. Martial music was an important condition. As the flags, they were to play at the same moment, creating an uncanny dialogue of the two extremely similar national things, differing only in details – the direction of stripes, intensity of voices and musical instruments.

The Shovel and the Rifle: Previously the place of the Shovel in this piece was deeply under watched. While the Rifle is in the locus of action, the Shovel has much more powerful position. I perform the text about my rifle being my friend, but the real comrade in the performance is a Shovel, as it is being activated in process, although not sounded (which probably could be good to rethink next time). The Shovel is a comrade-helper in destruction of the militarist nationalism proposed with the prayer from Full Metal Jacket, which means that it could also perform an undercurrent gesture establishing internationalist and socialist comradeship.