Art in Focus: ORDER – a wake-up call by Democracia

Spanish artistic collective Democracia take on capitalism and its evils in their latest work, with the help of the Black Panthers and a Dublin youth choir

 

What is it? ORDER is a new operatic work – the full three acts – in the form of a film installation by the artistic collective Democracia. It’s a compact collective of two: Spanish artists Pablo España and Iván López. The first of the three acts is entitled Eat the Rich/ Kill the Poor, inspired by a quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “When the people shall have nothing to eat, they will eat the rich.” And in a revolutionary spirit, Democracia is having a go at “the conventions and injustices of capitalism”.

How was it done? Democracia engage with a diversity of collaborators. The term opera might give the wrong impression. It’s not like an evening at the Met. They have a punk aesthetic and a guerilla style approach as, with the relevant partners, they stage provocative interventions in public spaces and events, and capture it all on film. That said, the libretto of ORDER has a classical pedigree. It’s largely based on the Myth of Five Ages from Hesiod’s 800-line didactic poem Works & Days.

Where can I see it? ORDER is on view at Rua Red in Tallaght until June 23rd (ruared.ie). There is a local connection. One section was filmed in Dublin, where they collaborated with a young church choir who, gamely, sang in a shopping mall.

Is it a typical work by the artist(s)? It covers a lot of ground. Apart from the Dublin sequence, Democracia got together with the Black Panthers in Houston for an open carry demonstration – that could be risky – and in London they contrived to smuggle two people into a private dinner in the Penthouse and Pavilion suit at The Dorchester. Never a dull moment. They opted for Hesiod because, though the poem is ostensibly an agricultural almanac, it was written in a time of crisis, which they equate with our own.

As it happened Hesiod was one of those people who couldn’t resist telling everyone else what he or she should do. In this case, his dissolute brother, who squandered his inheritance and then bribed the judiciary to win some of Hesiod’s share. Of the Five Ages it’s no wonder that Hesiod designates his own, the Age of Iron, as the worst, an era of toil and hardship for some and a complete absence of scruples for others. It’s not clear that his brother got the message.

Democracia is based in Madrid. España and López decided to work together on the basis that both wanted their work to emerge from discussion and debate, rather than a single artistic voice. They were both also keen to directly address the real world, in the sense of the happening socio-political world around them. That may seem like a given, but they were – quite reasonably, one would have to say given the current political climate – concerned that people tend to live in an ersatz world of simulacra, as proposed by Jean Baudrillard as far back as the early 1980s. Their art, then, is a wake-up call.

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