After the Order
performance (commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna)
In 2006 we took part in Kuba: Journey Against the Current, a project organized by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. It was a chain of events taking place in several cities along the river Danube, with local artists invited to reflect their own socio-political environments within the specific context of former Eastern bloc heritage and its political perspectives.
We decided to realize a project we have been thinking of for a longer time - a live monument inspired by the drawing entitled The Pyramid of Capitalist System, a caricature published in The Industrial Worker magazine in 1911. This fascinating illustration depicts a cross-section of the stratas of capitalist society. It shows a human pyramid, built out of different social classes, the higher class always standing on the top of the lower one. Our work was meant to be an enactment of this drawing, translated into the present day. We intended to transpose the fossil concept of class society onto the contemporary Slovak society by creating a living sculpture whose form would be designed by criteria such as occupation, education, income, power and social prestige.
We chose to stage the pageant on the Square of Freedom, formerly named Gottwald's square, after a communist president of Czechoslovakia. The specific place where the human pyramid was sketched is the place where a giant statue of Klement Gottwald used to stand. After '89 the monument was torn down and the space was left vacant since then. We used this existing pedestal for building an ephemeral sculpture, a pattern which visually reminded of "Spartakiadist" configurations. Spartakiada was a grand propagandist event, a mass gymnastics display held at Prague's enormous Strahov stadium every five years during the era of socialism. Thousands of people came to the capital from all over Czechoslovakia for the occasion, which - with its emphasis on mass participation, co-ordination and co-operation - was of great significance to the Communist regime. The spectacle of physical perfection and staged unity demonstrated the triumph of the Communists, the efficacy of Socialism and the achievements of the state.
Our one minute monument was built of 100 young people wearing T-shirts of different colors, each nuance signifying a different social group. The pattern produced by the mass of After the Order participants is symptomatic for the abstract rationality of the capitalist economic system. Thus it became a surface animation of real underlying social conditions in recently neo-liberal Slovakia.