Mary Cremin Curatorial Co-Ordinator Irish Museum of Modern Art

My World Is Over - Mary Cremin 2009

My World is Over is an exhibition that articulates and constructs parallels between the current global economic rupture and historical and political ideologies. The recognition of the fallibility of the pursuit of the neo-liberal dream has resulted in a global shift in consciousness Mark Clare’s investigation of historically determined forms of power through his sculptural, photographic and video works questions the etiology of power that dominated that global social contract.

The starting point for the exhibition is a map of the world titled My world Is Over which the exhibition takes its title from. World Maps are divisive and instrumental in terms of our geographical perception. The Mercator map is the most commonly used, pivoting Europe as the central power, in this piece the artist repositions America as the center of power, highlighting this notion of America being the epicenter of capitalism and its domination in global economics. The collapse of its system was a catalyst for the spiraling global downturn that we currently find ourselves in.

Mark Clare continues this play with political symbols, in his piece Ping Pong Diplomacy he constructed a ping pong table one side of which is rough recycled materials and the other of smooth commercial floor boarding. The piece is indicative of the imbalance that exists in the present geopolitical climate. The dialogue between sides is disrupted and dependent on the skills of the opponents. Ping-pong tables are emblematic of period of time in communist countries where they were used to bring people within a community together in public spaces, evoking a sense of openness and exchange. This failed utopian notion is indicative of the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe and the remnants that remain.

This pursuit of utopian ideals is investigated in Ou-topia a photographic triptych. Thoreau a follower of transcendentalism, a movement that protested against the state of society and culture, he opted for an existence that operated through spiritualism and intuition. In his book Walden he expounds on the benefits of living within nature and becoming self-reliant operating outside of the system. The photographs illustrate the destruction of these idealistic notions within contemporary society and the failure of these utopian ideas. In Archaeologies of the Future Frederic Jameson’s states that ‘the more surely a given utopia asserts its radical difference from what currently is, to that very degree it becomes, not merely unrealizable but, what is worse, unimaginable’. The establishment of experimental communities continue this pursuit of an ecological utopia there proliferation have been seen in the 1960’s and under our present conditions these ideals of bridging the gap between man and nature seem to be rising to the fore once again.

Questioning notions of power is pervasive throughout Mark Clare’s oeuvre. In his works Democracity and Splendid Isolation he refers to Jeremy Bentham’s theory of the Panopticon. This notion of the panoptican we are familiar with through the writings of Michel Foucault. In his book Discipline & Punishment: The birth of Prison, he discusses the panopticon as a laboratory of power; an architectural apparatus designed as a means of creating and sustaining power and for pedagogical experiments in terms of monitoring behavioral patterns. The link between notions of the panopticon and utopia is that they are both closed in upon themselves. Foucault aligns the evolution of the panopticon with current methods of surveillance. The prevalence of CCTV cameras has become a signature of power within the current system. The general public is conscious of being consistently monitored, Bentham’s view was that ‘he who is subjected to a field of visibility and who knows, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power’, the implication being it creates self-restraint, creating a general ethos of self-surveillance.

The central video piece of the exhibition The World Could Wait no Longer takes its impetus from the Orange Alternative who were an underground protest movement in Poland that used surrealism and happenings as a means of protesting the communist regime in power during the 80’s. The piece is staged in a dark theatrical setting and the props are reminiscent of the speaker’s corner in Hyde Park in London. The actor recites the Manifesto of the Orange Alternative written by Major Waldemar Fydrych, this text embodied the surrealist notion of using absurdist actions and humor as a method to question political thought, art, philosophy and social theory. Fydrych’s writings act as an extension of Andre Breton’s assertion that surrealism was essentially a revolutionary movement. In his Surrealist Manifesto he highlighted that surrealism can be applied to all aspects of life, and is effective in collective action.

The preoccupation with structures of power and alternative ideologies is consistent throughout Mark Clare’s practice; he provides insight into different philosophical and political approaches without being pedantic. The potentiality of an artistic practice in revealing the undercurrents of the political and social is not radically new but it provides a space for evaluation of the current system. Artists engaged in political critique provide a document of present and past histories and open a space of possibilities and alternative trajectories that allow for the continuing evolution of political thought which is fundamental to our advancement.