Erica Capecchi, Ariel Lien, Barry Spencer, Seungha Lee, Eef Veldkamp
Long connected in various world cultures and religions with magic, death and rebirth, the boat as archetype has a powerful significance. Alongside the more obvious associations of journey, adventure and exploration, the boat also serves as a vessel of our deeper imagination and fears, as a leap of faith into the unknown and inexplicable: a journey that traverses borders and time-zones that is by no means secure and can be fraught with danger.
In classical European culture, the image was adopted by the Greek philosopher Plato as an allegory to demonstrate the fallibility of democracy, envisaging its almost inevitable collapse, since it offers freedom but neglects the demands of proper governance. He describes an imaginary Shjp of Fools to claim that in a system where political power (kratos) is left in the hands of the people (demos) who do not have enough expertise, discipline and order, it would ultimately go overboard leaving only ignorance and irrationality. Democracy would be left on its knees, rudderless, plankton-like, drifting rather than navigating – declining into tyranny and a total lack of freedom.
Inspired by this reference, in the performance and installation Dictator(ship), the boat becomes the locus to subvert and transgress; a fluid and ever-changing anarchic platform of ridicule, dissent and change. Using the political and satirical potential of the carnivalesque, the artists impersonate a group of imaginary dictators who have been forced to flee their respective countries as if they were refugees. Now they are in the reverse situation having switched roles, experiencing at first hand the consequences of their very tyranny.
What remains of the Dictator(ship) are the pieces of flotsam washed ashore, the detritus of the journey: broken pieces of wood, the helm and abandoned costumes. We are left to contemplate the remnants of their fall, the faint traces of lives once lived. Empty and lifeless totems of power, like Shelley’s once-great pharaoh, Ozymandias “nothing besides remains”.