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Martin: One of the main approaches to The Bridge project was the creation of new associations between otherwise divergent practices. Your own idea of 'Feuding in art' may in some sense be seen as antithetical to this. Does the idea of 'feuding' create a more charged and thus productive platform?

The manifestation in which I encountered The Bridge project was as a temporary link between the Whitechapel Gallery café and The Freedom Press bookshop. Perhaps there are plans for a more imaginative realisation of this venture but it is hard for me to think up anything more hackneyed than linking the worlds of art and anarchism.

I have written elsewhere that traditionally, and even today, the artist occupies an anachronistic position within the capitalist economy. Rather than being wage-labourers, artists are nominally self-employed - but in practice they tend to be dependent for their incomes on either one or a small number of individuals (a dealer and/or patrons). The virtually feudal economic situation endured by artists coupled with a star system that results in a small minority of them being vastly overpaid for their work - with the overwhelming majority grossly underpaid (although this poorly rewarded labour is undoubtedly necessary from an economic point of view, since it is required to valorise and justify the prices paid for works by star names) - had until recently resulted in those producing art professionally being peculiarly susceptible to reactionary ideologies such as anarchism and fascism. Today, politics (and particularly those forms of politics grounded in petty-bourgeois rancour) are a dead weight to aspiring cultural celebrities. It is no longer necessary for artists to espouse reactionary platitudes, since the very culture they're enmeshed in is totalitarian. In this sense the Bridge Project might be interpreted as a manifestation of nostalgia for times past.

In the pamphlet Anarchist Integralism: Aesthetics, Politics and the Apres-Garde I show that anarchism as a form of identity politics is rooted in the ideology of the aesthetic. The fact that it is impossible to separate the discourses of art and anarchy after the ascent to power of the bourgeoisie is such a banality that it hardly requires elucidation. Both art and anarchy invariably carry in their train all the usual idealist claptrap about 'freedom' and 'individual creativity' (in short a collection of threadbare excuses for human alienation under capitalist modes of production). From futurism to fluxus, from surrealism to neo-dada, there isn't a movement in 'modern' art without leading adherents who described themselves as anarchists. Likewise, it shouldn't be necessary for me to point out that linking a café and a bookshop is prosaic. Many bookshops in both Europe and North America have cafés installed inside them. Coffee and books are considered to work well together and in the US there is even a coffee and literary culture magazine called Cups dedicated to this proposition.

If as you state  'the main approaches to The Bridge project was the creation of new associations between otherwise divergent practices' then on the evidence of its Whitechapel presentation it has failed miserably. What has been achieved is about on a par with rhyming 'moon' and 'June' - to reiterate, art and anarchy are anything but divergent practices (I won't go into the issues here because this would unnecessarily lengthen discussion - but an examinations of bohemianism, squatting and the gentrification of working class neighbourhoods would prove particularly pertinent with regard to this)..

Martin: Do you think that some of the issues generated by The Bridge - in particular the 'symbolic' aspect - could elicit more concrete results than a cardboard sculpture?

Home: My answer might vary depending upon which cardboard sculpture we are discussing. To take a concrete example, if The Bridge was being compared to Gustav Metzger's Cardboards exhibition of November 1959 at 14 Monmouth Street, London, then my answer would be 'no'. Way back when Metzger claimed that some of the greatest works of art ever made were dumped nightly on the streets of Soho. Take a walk around Soho today and you'll see that the streets invoked by Metzger are far cleaner than when he first made this claim.

Part of my problem with The Bridge was the difficulty of examining it as a physical object due to the purely instrumental view of it adopted by Freedom Press workers. On a number of occasions I attempted to look at The Bridge in terms of its construction (in order, among other things, to compare it to the self-built works of artist/architects such as Stefan Szczelkun), only to be told by those working in Freedom that the bridge was quite safe to cross and that I should come into their bookshop. I had no wish to go inside the Freedom bookshop and my concerns (I found The Bridge to be stable so I had no worries about my physical safety) were entirely misunderstood by those working at Freedom. Unfortunately, on three separate occasions the obnoxious bleatings of the Angel Alley anarchists prevented me from examining The Bridge satisfactorily. Thus examinations and interpretations of The Bridge were greatly hampered by Freedom Press wanting to treat it solely as a means of flogging their stale and reactionary ideology to new customers.

Martin: Do you think that a local artist - you mentioned Rasheed - would have had a more productive and less symbolic approach? Was this a failure on the part of the curators to acknowledge that progressive social activity needs a localised emphasis?

Home: All social activity (progressive or otherwise) takes place at specific geographical locations. Despite the hype, not even the internet has abolished space. If I e-mail a friend, I do so from a physical location regardless of whether this is an office in a Finnish University or an Internet Cafe in Aberdeen. My objection to The Bridge was that it encouraged visitors to the Whitechapel Gallery to go into the Freedom Press bookshop. Freedom Press not only sell works by the anti-Semitic propagandists Proudhon and Bakunin, they also have portraits of these anarchist 'founding fathers' on the outside wall of their premises. Stewart Edwards, the editor of the Selected Writings Of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon remarks: "Proudhon's diaries (Garnets, ed. P. Haubtmann, Marcel Rivière, Paris 1960 to date) reveal that he had almost paranoid feelings of hatred against the Jews. In 1847 he considered publishing... an article against the Jewish race, which he said he 'hated.' The proposed article would have 'Called for the expulsion of the Jews from France.. The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia, or exterminated. H. Heine, A. Weil, and others are simply secret spies. Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould, evil choleric, envious, bitter men etc, etc, who hate usÓ (Garnets, vol. 2, p. 337: No VI, 178)."

Bakunin's notorious calumnies are well illustrated by a short quote from his Rapports personnels avec Marx : "This whole Jewish world, comprising a single exploiting sect, a kind of blood sucking people, a kind of organic destructive collective parasite, going beyond not only the frontiers of states, but of political opinion, this world is now, at least for the most part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand, and of Rothschild on the other... This may seem strange. What can there be in common between socialism and a leading bank? The point is that authoritarian socialism, Marxist communism, demands a strong centralisation of the state. And where there is centralisation of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank, and where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, speculating with the Labour of the people, will be found."

I assume (although I could be wrong about this) that other than Freedom Press, none of those involved in The Bridge project were aware of the specifics of Proudhon and Bakunin's politics until I alerted Anthony Spira at the Whitechapel Gallery to them prior to my talk at the venue (and as you know, I also raised this as an issued that needed to be addressed by the gallery during my talk). It is nevertheless unfortunate that the Whitechapel and Thomas Hirschhorn should have lent credence to an operation promoting as heroes men who helped lay the ideological foundations for Nazi genocide. Even more bizarrely, the portraits of Proudhon and Bakunin in Angel Alley were commissioned through Free Form, working in association with Freedom and the Whitechapel Gallery, with the project being financed by the EC funded Bethnal Green City Challenge, with co-operation from Tower Hamlets council and local businesses. It is extremely odd that publicly funded art of this type should be placed in a part of east London with so many Jewish connections - and not just historically, since even today there are still many Jewish businesses in the locality. This is something I would really like you to focus on, since for me the most positive thing that could come out of this discussion is an understanding of how these portraits came to be commissioned and paid for with public money - as well, of course, as their removal from the wall of the Freedom Press premises at the earliest possible moment.

It is also necessary to stress that the problems I've raised with regard to Bakunin and Proudhon are not restricted to historical anarchism. Freedom Press also sell material by contemporary anarchist groups and individuals that are just as offensive. For example, even after other London alternative bookshops such as Compendium in Camden refused to sell material by the Green Anarchist Network, Freedom continued to do so (and despite carrying criticisms of it in their fortnightly newspaper Freedom). At the end of the day it is irresponsible of the Whitechapel Gallery to funnel people into a bookshop selling publications advocating that London tube train commuters should be indiscriminately murdered in Sarin gas attacks and that neo-Nazi style fertiliser bomb attacks should be carried out against DSS offices to 'end welfare dependency'. Most local people are deeply offended by material of this sort, as will be obvious from reactions to the recent fascist nail bomb attack on Brick Lane. Regardless of their criticisms of Green Anarchist, Freedom Press show no regard for the feelings of the local community when they sell publications such as Anarchist Lancaster Bomber and books by contemporary racist anarchists such as Bob Black (as well as older anti-Semitic rants such as Bakunin's Statism & Anarchy, even if - as has been the case recently - it is in a 'History of Political Thought' edition published by the Cambridge University Press: it is important to remember that Freedom do not target readers engaged in academic study but rather sell books for propaganda purposes).

To answer the first part of your question, I think almost anything would have been preferable (I hesitate to use the word productive for obvious reasons) to lending credibility and support to an anarchist business that promotes vicious anti-Semites as heroes to be admired (even if most of those working for this business do not share or explicitly endorse the more offensive views of their idols). The point I was making in my talk is that the local Bangladeshi community are subjected to extreme levels of institutional racism in terms of housing and jobs (a recent report suggested they were the most economically disadvantaged ethnic group in London). What I was suggesting in my talk was that an artist (not necessarily a local artist) might have attempted to build bridges with the local Bangladeshi community, and that given the recent history of conflict between Bengal and Pakistan it might have been worthwhile and appropriate to use an artist with a Pakistani background such as Rasheed Araeen. This was only one suggestion and an attempt to redress institutional (i.e. a manifestation of the dominant white) racism would have been very welcome. Let me elaborate - institutional racism in the employment market results in a disproportionate number of Bangladeshi men working in jobs with unsocial hours (very often in restaurants or as mini-cab drivers doing night shifts). The area around the Whitechapel Gallery is densely populated and much of the housing takes the form of neglected council blocks. These neglected blocks often have concrete stairs and residents frequently have their sleep disturbed by men returning from late work shifts. The Whitechapel Gallery paying for artists to lay carpet on the bare concrete stairwells of local council blocks would have been much more than a merely symbolic gesture, it would have provided a much needed practical improvement to the lives of members of the local community.

Martin: Is the gallery/museum a cogent space for the dissemination of political ideas?

Home: Your question seems to imply a rather one-sided conception of what takes place in galleries. In short it echoes the old idealist fallacy of Holy Spirit descending into unconscious matter, of 'consciousness being brought in from outside'. The gallery is a politicised space whether the artists and curators involved like this or not. Likewise, overall the politics articulated by art galleries as cultural spaces are anything but socially progressive. However, it is also important to realise that there are necessarily contradictions within this situation that can and should be exploited. Obviously, there are contradictions inherent in all forms of employment within the capitalist economy (and not just for those who hold progressive social views), and it should be stressed that artists and art curators are not the only individuals having to negotiate these difficulties.

Martin: Thomas has stated that the non-permanent nature of  The Bridge demonstrates the symbolic ideology behind it. Would you agree that its disappearance is its strength?

Home: All ideologies (i.e. forms of false-consciousness) contain a symbolic element, this is in no way unique to ideological discourse accompanying The Bridge project. Likewise, nothing is permanent, everything disappears, it is just a question of different time scales. Of course, I am pleased to see the physical bridge between the Whitechapel Gallery and the Freedom bookshop disappear - but if the disappearance of The Bridge is its strength, then the fact that it was built at all must be its primary weakness.

Previously published in Material: Public Works - The Bridge 2000 by Thomas Hirschhorn (Book Works and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 2001 - ISBN 1 870699 55 6).

London Art Tripping (psychogeography of 50 years of bohemianism)

Andre Stitt (live art and shamanism)

How To Improve The World (Hayward show of Arts Council Collection)


Stewart HomeStewart HomeStewart Home

The plastic bag that serves as the cover of Material by Thomas Hirschhorn

Orangemen are not the only fruits: fresh citrus snacks a boon for fetishists everywhere
Auto-sexuality is taking over the world. Even before J. G. Ballard penned his classic car sex novel Crash way back when, there were plenty of indications your average bloke got an amatory thrill from automobiles. But it was Ballard who explicitly eroticised the boredom of motorway journeys and drew out the solipsistic appeal of sex 'n' death on four wheels. Now with Fresh Citrus Snacks it seems that food repackagers are catching up with contemporary peccadilloes. An orange and a 'hand-wipe' (ha ha) wrapped in plastic will prove irresistible to lonesome men stopping at motorway service stations while locked into a cross country driving groove.

As contemporary cult writer Iain Sinclair makes clear in his forthcoming novel Landor's Tower, for anyone with a passing interest in the sexual fringe oranges are inextricably linked to auto-erotic deaths. This perversion was big news in the nineteen-nineties after Tory MP Stephen Milligan was found dressed in nothing but women's underwear and asphyxiated with a segment of orange in his mouth at his London home. An official investigation concluded Milligan had died through misadventure after an auto-sexual act went horribly wrong.

" I became interested in the spook connection with auto-sexual deaths involving oranges after reading an insane conspiracy pamphlet called Crown Against Concubine by N. H. Merton," Iain Sinclair told me. "The author seemed to think the oranges in the mouths of Milligan and spy writer James Rushbridger who also died in an auto-erotic accident symbolised a covert war between the Vatican and the Church of England for control of the world heroin trade."

" Oranges in the mouths of auto-sexual fatalities have nothing to do with Protestant symbolism," opines Blaster Al Ackerman who edits an underground sex magazine called The Bread Doll Fancier. "Mild strangulation heightens the intensity of a man's orgasm, and if you put an orange segment in your mouth while doing this it gives you an even bigger thrill. I think Fresh Citrus Snacks are a fantastic idea, since I'm often caught short without a tissue after giving my dick a good tug in a countryside lay-by with an orange in my mouth and a hot fan belt freshly plucked from the engine of my car strung around my neck. The plastic packaging around Fresh Citrus Snacks makes the oranges look cuter and sexier than anything you'd find in a green grocers. Did you know that when James Rushbridger was found dead with a rope around his neck and an orange in his mouth, he was dressed in oil-skins?"

Ackerman predicts that after the orange it is the grape that will be the next fruit to get the sexual rebranding treatment. "There are a whole bunch of Shoreditch based style journalists who got into this weird thing with Sofa Workshop furniture," Ackerman revealed. "I think it had something to do with much of this furniture being named after famous cultural figures. At first it was all pretty obvious stuff, mainly sado-masochism on Braque, Duchamp, Dali and Man Ray sofas. Then one of these style journalists did an interview with me that never did appear in Shoreditch Twat, but he took me up on my suggestion that he get into some more classical themes. It was the Landseer Chaise Longue that appealed to me. I thought of Sir Edwin's famous painting Stag At Bay and got a couple of junkies to help me recreate it sexually. I got one girl to lie supine on the Landseer sofa eating grapes while noisily gobbing the seeds into an old spittoon. Once I'd gone down on the reclining beauty and had a fine mouthful of pussy, the second girl buggered me with a huge strap-on as a way of symbolically invoking the wounded stag. My journalistic pals thought this was great fun, which is why the grape is about to be reinstated as the most sexualised fruit."

According to the feminist philosopher Gillian Rose there is a far bigger gender divide in fruit fetishism than in any other form of food perversion. "With a lot of the foods that are just sploshed about and licked off the body like custard or whipped cream or yoghurt, there is no real difference in the appeal to women or men," Rose told me. "But when you move onto fruit, which as a food fetish is most popular among auto-sexuals, then you find men going for more strongly flavoured things like oranges, while women like unripened bananas and cucumbers which they can insert inside themselves. So Fresh Citrus Snacks are definitely going to sell mainly to men, not only due to the choice of fruit but also because women tend to prefer dry tissues for cleaning themselves up after auto-sexual acts."

Rose is probably right but I can't help thinking that there are a lot of perverts about who'll think it is a shame that all these bodily fluids are being wiped up and thrown away. Surely there is a go-getting capitalist entrepreneur with the vision to market all that spilt jissum as a beauty aid. According to folklore applying fresh spunk to your face greatly improves the skin tone. A cosmetic firm could market sperm as a beauty cream even if gay men swallowed whole packets of it and childless women used it for artificial insemination.

More seriously, prostitution is said to be the oldest profession, so the commodification of sex is nothing new. Real Citrus Snacks represent not so much our separation from nature as a glaring example of our alienation from our own human nature. We live in a society in which sex is divorced from the warmth of truly human relationships. As Karl Marx so ably demonstrated more than a century ago, commodity fetishism is inextricably linked to sexual fetishism. An orange and a 'hand-wipe' wrapped in plastic provide a perfect symbol of everything that is wrong with capitalist society.
An edited version of this piece appeared in Sleazenation. vol 4 issue 2 March 2001.