La Gégène [Electric Shock Torture]
(work in progress)
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.
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.