It’s been several months since we last sampled Extensions: the Online Journal of Embodiment & Technology and I feel it’s time we once again bathed in its countercultural glow. Today’s offering comes courtesy of the artist and educator José Carlos Teixeira, whose work is “mostly focused on video, installation, and performance” and, naturally, addresses issues of pressing social import. Specifically,
Issues related to language, cultural identity formation, human dislocation, boundaries of personal and social spaces, and the definition of physical and psychic territory by using strategies of collaboration and group performance.
Mr Teixeira completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in “Interdisciplinary Studio” at the University of California, Los Angeles and has been a recipient of the Fulbright / Carmona & Costa Foundation Grant, the Gulbenkian / FLAD Grant, the Samuel Booth Award, and UCLA Fellowships. The issue-addressing artwork featured in Extensions - titled It’s OK (united) #1 #2 #3 – three steps to a (r)evolution - is described as follows:
A video project that takes its departure from a critical reflection around dominant educational, socio-cultural and political premises in the West. The case of the United States seemed to be the most meaningful for me – not only because it is currently the country where I live and work (reinforcing the site-specificity quite prevalent in my videos), but also due to its paradigmatic and hegemonic nature.
After sharing a ponderous quote by the late Edward Said, Mr Teixeira explains the origins of this profound socio-cultural project:
It's OK (united) was born during my trips on the bus, in the metro rail system, and sometimes while I was driving to different parts of the city of Los Angeles… As a repetitive common saying, [“It’s OK”] encapsulated paradoxes and contradictions, be it in the form of electoral results, in the state of war, in the lack of equality and freedom, in the discrimination and mutual racism I could witness almost every day.
Let’s see. Said, hegemony, paradoxes, contradictions, electoral results… War, equality, discrimination, racism… Human dislocation, social spaces, cultural identity, physical and psychic territory… Plenty of themes to draw on there and no shortage of looming gravitas. This must be building up to something ambitious, something vast. All that’s missing are some vague and dutiful references to globalisation, subversion and “The Other.”
Also, I was bringing up the question of what type of limits we have in the process of negotiation with the Other.
This piece attempts to subvert the founding principles of behaviours and attitudes taken as normal and positive… It aims toward a discourse about prescient sociological and psychological issues as globalization, migration, integration and/or the frustration in the failure of the democratic ideals. It also enunciates ethics not dissociated from aesthetics: the artist-author as a responsive and responsible cultural, social and political agent.
There we go. All present and correct. And utterly non-conformist.
Given the daunting build up, I think it’s time you braced yourselves for the full aesthetic force of It’s OK (united) #1 #2 #3 – three steps to a (r)evolution. I should warn you, the subversive discourse gets even more subversive around the 1:30 mark, when the critical reflection really kicks in and the “paradigmatic and hegemonic nature” of Western society is given the precision thrashing it undoubtedly deserves.
[ Added: Video deleted; now available here. ]
A devastating critique, I think you’ll agree. Smelling salts and vodka are available at the bar. Those brave enough to relive the experience and perhaps share it with friends can find a sheet of lyrics here.
Update, via the comments:
Mr Teixeira’s ostentatious subversion is all the more amusing because it’s so conformist. He, like many others, is doing what he thinks he ought to be seen doing, if only by those playing much the same game. Making a thing of beauty isn’t a consideration and isn’t attempted, possibly because it doesn’t suit the role-play of being a “social and political agent.” What matters to Mr Teixeira is demonstrating his compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which signals both the cleverness of the artist and his ideological credentials. This is done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it delivers anything of the sort.