(work in progress)
video, sound, various dimensions
Inv. 2007.1075/Acquired with the aid of the FRAM Île-de-France
Malachi Farrell presents machines that
are expressions of his political stand
against all forms of physical and
psychological violence, which coincided
with his discovery of electronic art
at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 1994
In La Gégène, ‘Mister Media’, a robot mannequin made of audiovisual equipment, welcomes the visitor sitting on a chair. On his torso, a TV screen broadcasts records of torture victims gathered on the Internet. Then a heart beats, brutally visualizing the anxiety of waiting and expectation. The person’s feet and the chair’s legs are set in a tank containing water and connected to a source of electric power placed on a table: the lamp lights the figure to subject him to ‘the question’ and flashes of blue light run over his body. Puppets like members of the Ku Klux Klan and kamikaze terrorists and suicide bombers fidget at the sound of laughter recorded for a TV series. Last of all, a video camera films the whole scene and transmits it to another part of the museum. La Gégène conjures up a form of torture practiced during the Algerian war and still used to this day.
To make this piece, the artist drew inspiration from books (Henri Alleg’s La Question, 1958), films (Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers, 1966) and documentaries (Marie-Monique Robin’s Death Squads: the French School, 2003), denouncing the practice of torture in Algeria and its side-effects.
Through this installation, Malachi Farrell rails against the political shenanigans and xenophobic ideologies at the root of barbaric practices. The ubiquitous and all-powerful media coverage of such things bolsters this extreme violence, helping us to witness terrorist acts almost live (9/11) and executions of former heads of state (Saddam Hussein), thus lending current violence a spectacular character while at the same time rendering it banal. The artist assembles high-tech elements the better to challenge the end purpose of this violence, along with its use for the purposes of presentation. He champions freedom of expression, but he also raises the issue of the absence of boundaries and the excesses of media coverage. This installation echoes Nature morte [Still Life] (1996 – 2000) in the MAC/VAL collection1, a piece which re-enacts the execution of the Rosenbergs, evoking to the spectacular dimension of capital punishment in the United States.
V.L. 1. The two works were presented at the MAC/VAL as part of the installation ‘The Dark Side of Things’ (2010 – 2011) by Malachi Farrell.