MECW (Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works brickbats) (2016) is a sculpture specifically conceived as an answer to the title of the current edition of AV Festival, Meanwhile, what about Socialism? Claire Fontaine has submitted to a process of petrification the fifty volumes comprising the comprehensive collection of Marx and Engels’ writings in the English language. Formally and conceptually this work derives from a first operation carried out on isolated books (the ongoing series, Brickbats, 2006 – present), which underlined both the illegibility/inaccessibility of the book object and the literal possibility to transform it one last time into a weapon.

The book’s message here is reduced to what Jean Genet calls ‘peritext’, namely what is apparent and external to the published book as material translation of a mental object. The sculptures underline the external perception one may have of our culture’s decisive essays once they have been rendered accessible to the general public while keeping perfectly intact the difficulty of their intellectual and political assimilation.

The video Situations (2011, 32.38min) paraphrases a street fighting instructional DVD and leaks dangerous information inviting the visitor to reproduce the gestures displayed. Like in a Brechtian device, the actors constantly interrupt themselves in order to comment on the movements that they are showing us; at the same time, through this explicitly pedagogical process, they make their gestures ‘reproducible’ by anyone, as much by our friends, as by our potential enemies because they redistribute their knowledge indiscriminately. They realise thus Bertolt Brecht’s program, which was to make gestures “quotable”. The violence presented here as self-defence is at the same time physical and metaphorical reminding us of social and economical attacks that we receive every day. The actors are filmed in a white cube, in conditions of spatial and temporal abstraction.

Red AK47 (2016), Red Government M16 (2016), Red H&K G36C (2016), Red Motorola Radio (2016), Red Taser X26 (2016) are ready-mades inspired by the state of emergency in which we live. These red objects perfectly reproduce the shape and the weight of the weapon or tool for training purposes. Exhibited outside of their context and de-functionalised they stand like ghosts of the possible violence that could explode any time soon.

Curated by AV Festival 2016: Meanwhile, what about Socialism? as part of the Festival group exhibition across nine venues in Newcastle and Gateshead.

The exhibition includes work by the following artists and archives: Thomas Spence (UK), Amber Films (UK), Jack Common/North East Film Archive (UK), Tim Brennan (UK), Hugo Canoilas (Portugal), Dan Perjovschi (Romania), Madhusudhanan (India), Pallavi Paul (India), Haim Sokol (Russia), R.E.P. (Ukraine), Claire Fontaine (France).

The Festival title comes from a quote in George Orwell’s book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, which is the thematic framework for AV Festival 2016-2018. In 1936, Orwell spent two months living in the industrial North observing working-class life amidst growing social injustice, poverty and unemployment. The book is an analysis of English socialism, concluding that the basis of democratic socialism is equality and fairness. Mirroring the book's structure, AV Festival 2016 is Part One, with artists situating themselves in relation to historic and contemporary political struggle. Presented in 14 venues the programme features 12 solo installations, 48 film screenings, nine artist talks and four performances.

For more information about the whole AV Festival programme please visit: www.avfestival.co.uk

Artist Talk
Saturday 27 February 12.45-1.30pm
Tyneside Cinema, Digital Lounge, 10-12 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle NE1 6QG


Claire Fontaine present an illustrated talk about their work and the term ‘human strike’. Claire Fontaine adopted the term human strike to define a type of strike that involves the whole of life, echoing Michel Foucault’s statement that revolution within the modern European world is not only a political project but also a life form.