Joy & Revolution - Clément Claudius

Sur la plage, les pavés(On the beach, the paving stones)

DISKURS Berlin  Novalisstraße 7, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Opening Thu, 27.04.2023, 6 – 9 PM

Duration 27.04. – 02.06.2023

Curated by Peter Ungeheuer

Hercules 2023

The Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene, better known in Germany by his Roman name Hercules, has been functionalised since antiquity by being used as a myth of identification through various attributions. While he served the Ancien Régime as a symbol of the king’s power and the Jacobins as a deterrent figure, the revolutionary forces also used him as an allegory for the power of the people. If you like, he fought on both sides without being asked.

If Hercules were to be harnessed for the demonstrators’ side today, the myth would certainly have to be rewritten. Since many demonstrators often feel like revolutionaries, it is legitimate to imagine the Hercules of today. This is how one could understand the work of Clément Claudius, who shows a small museum of the physical props of demonstrations in the rooms of DISKURS Berlin. As a Frenchman (and environmental activist) living in Germany, he is particularly interested in the relationship between demonstration and revolution, in 1789 as well as in 2023.

Sur la plage, les pavés deals with the world of the streets, partly of street fighting. So a heraldic hero could actually be useful in this context.

The classic attributes of Hercules in artistic representations are the skin of the Nemean lion he killed, a club, as well as bow and arrow, which at the same time are the tools of his heroic deeds. Language was certainly not a preferred weapon of this ancient warrior; in the age of the media flood of images, several layers of taglines which by superposition become illegible (3 x 14  slogans, réforme des retraites, 2023), but also a pair of megaphones that neutralise themselves here (Mégaphones aphones, 2023). Roadblocks existed at least as early as the times of the French Revolution; this is where the phrase “going to the barricades” comes from. In the work

小沙 (petit salon hongkongais) from 2023, the hollow blocks used in Hong Kong demonstrations are arranged into a cosy seating area. Is there fire without smoke? from 2023, on view as an outdoor sculpture at the opening, is also an artistic appropriation of an obstacle erected by demonstrators. The counterpart to this is the Social ladder (2017/2023), with the help of which a barrier erected by the forces of order can be overcome rather effortlessly. Instead of a lion’s skin, Hercules could clothe himself with a flag: L’étendard (2023) is an invented banner that uses the colours of the yellow vests instead of the revolutionary Tricolore. Instead of wielding a club or shooting arrows, the modern Hercules would perhaps throw Molotov cocktails or the paving stones mentioned in the exhibition title. While Encylopaedia protestaris (2023) shows a small librarian’s reference of projectiles collected at demonstrations, Freudenfeuer-Bausatz (2023) merely provides a DIY kit to go. The photo work Banksy in real life from 2018 and

Solidarity is key (2023) on the ceiling emphasise that protests can also be non-violent.

While Clément Claudius consistently avoids taking a position on the content of the demonstration in this exhibition, the “other” side also appears in the exhibition. Despotic graphology (2023) is an invitation to exhibition visitors to find a pattern in the reproduced signatures of historical rulers who took their people to the streets against them. The work Géomatraque, also created for this exhibition, is a series of neck logos of emergency forces painted after real-life models that serve as coordinative symbols during demonstrations. In keeping with this, remnants of this violence are also exhibited: All Candles Are Beautiful (2021/2023) are collected tear gas cartridges, some of which have been converted into scented candles. Incidentally, anyone who misreads the title of this work would be forgiven.

As a regular participant in demonstrations, the artist is naturally a partisan observer, which is also reflected in the second photographic work Salvation generation (2023). The policeman, in a typically ready-for-action pose, does not have a bulletproof vest in front of his chest, but a baby carrier.

The relationship between art and politics has always been highly complex: on the one hand, art has frequently been used for political purposes; on the other hand, there are many examples of political activism by artists of all disciplines. Clément Claudius does not stand in this tradition of works by Picasso, Kafka or Verdi, for example – his exhibition remains descriptive, and Hercules is not made into the heroic figurehead of protest here. After all, he has been misused often enough.

– Peter Ungeheuer









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