testsite 5.2: Rae Culbert and Catherine Walworth

testsite 5.2

YUPPIE (Young Urban Proles)

Rae Culbert and Catherine Walworth

May 15th - June 26th, 2005

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Image of Lenin. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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Is art a luxury?

Luxury versus productive labor

Leisure versus work

Raoul Vaneigem, Situationist spokesperson, said that we are all in a state of creativity twenty-four hours a day. What if we were all allowed time and absolute freedom to think for ourselves? What if our creativity were not dulled by overtaxing demands of wage labor? We might imagine everything differently than how it is presented to us. Poetry is an act which engenders new realities; it is the fulfillment of radical theory, the revolutionary act par excellence. (Vaneigem)

The setting for this discussion, couched in Communist terms, is Alexandre Rodchenko’s design for a Soviet Workers’ Club—eighty years old but still fresh in the minds of artists who continue to pine for its utopic connotations, recreating it in contemporary exhibitions across the world. Rodchenko—productivist, reductivist, man jauntily-posed in a jumpsuit made for him by his wife—he stands for the rise and fall of an idealist within the Soviet experiment.

The USSR exported his Workers’ Club to outline the New Man's leisure needs at Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels in Paris in 1925. Lenin had died the year before and avant-garde artists were being excommunicated by the Communist government that had exploited their skills as propagandists.

Rodchenko went to Paris to personally install his room. He ignored most of the famous artists in Paris at the time. He wrote to his wife, the artist Varvara Stepanova, Yesterday, watching people dance the foxtrot, I was overcome by a great desire to be in the East and not here. He is comparing those who celebrate their sleepwalking with those who work tirelessly to recreate their government.

Even his club for relaxation was not meant to be luxurious. The furniture was uncomfortable. It forced alertness as opposed to false comfort.

At testsite, central zones of Rodchenko’s design are recreated for public use. Visitors may play chess, read news items selected by the collaborators, and reflect on a little altar to Rodchenko, saintly representation of the disillusioned idealist.

Communism is the coin to turn around and around in one’s hand.

Communism is bread and butter to Texas, whose three Hill Country towns—New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and Boerne to name a few—are the result of communist experiments by German emigrants. Germany’s aristocrats supported the emigration of dissidents to buff the sheen of their status quo at home, making Texas a penal colony of radicals.

Communism has failed time and again, however. When One Voice is heard and alternative ideas are punished, (The current trend in American politics) the experiment can go wickedly awry. What does communist theory have to offer us, outside of its imperfect history? In 1920, after a month-long journey into daily life in Communist Russia, Bertrand Russell wrote of the Bolsheviks: They are neither angels to be worshiped nor devils to be exterminated, but merely bold and able men attempting with great skill an almost impossible task.

YUPPIE (Young Urban Proles) makes no definitive statements. It is an opportunity to think and read and speak about what is happening here and in the world. It encourages individuals to come together to re-imagine everything.

Also on view at testsite will be a film by Nate Cassie titled Day Job.

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