Troops in Riot Gear Deliver a Hidden Message in Venice
Anti-war performance art invades the Venice Biennale.
In front of the entrance, Giardini (May 11th)
The art label FUCK
ism TC operates under many monikers, including FEMIN ism TC, FXXX ism TC, XXXX ism TMC, and SUCK ism TC, which change continuously according to the artists involved and the concepts they focus on. The group has tackled issues like politics, deconstruction of social hierarchies, challenging power structures, peace, and feminism among others. Over the last few years, the Vienna-based trio of Anna Ceeh, Iv Toshain, and Matthias Makowsky, collectively known as XXXX ism TMC, have staged an anti-war performance art project, МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE (Peace).
One woman and nine men dress as soldiers and stand in line like an honor guard with messages of peace written on their protective vests, which can only be seen using night-vision goggles. Under their new museum-meets-artwork initiative, MOTA (Museum On Tour Austria), XXXX
ism TMC recently staged МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE outside the Venice Biennale, the world's largest arts festival, to bring more awareness to their artistic call for peace.
Artists that contributed messages to МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE include Lawrence Weiner and Olaf Nicolai, among others. South African artist Kendell Geers's slogan, "Stealing fire from heaven," is rather mythological, while Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar's reads, "He kills me, he kills me not." Afghan artist Amanullah Mojadidi cut right to the chase with what Toschain describes as the angry, prompting, and incisive message, "Go bomb yourself." Weiner, on the other hand, offered a more sober and conciliatory slogan with, "Here Today, Here Tomorrow."
In 2016, when Ceeh and Toshain invited Makowsky (the only man) to join their artistic duo, XXXX
ism TMC came into being and their anti-war performance project began to take shape. In recent years, Ceeh and Toshain have hacked Vienna Metro advertisements with their logos, spray painted the FUCK ism TC logo on Vienna's Kunsthalle Wien as a public statement against curators and museum directors copying artist works and concepts, and even enlisted the former Austrian President Heinz Fischer and the First Lady Margit to join and perform in their feminist installation САКРИЛЕГ. All of these works subversively harness the power of branding and mass messaging, and МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE's message of peace is no different.
As Toshain and Makowsky tell Creators, the work essentially came into existence back in 2014, when they staged a theme-based site-specific installation for the World War I centennial at the Ehrenhalle of Burgtor at Heldenplatz in Vienna. This, along with a number of ongoing international crises and political tensions, inspired the trio to send out a message of peace to the world. While the collective created messages for the work, they also invited a number of international artists to create anti-war or peace slogans.
"We asked them hypothetically: 'When the going gets rough, and you artists go to the barricades to voice your protest, what will you take with you? A work of art, a project, a portfolio?'" say Toschain and Makowsky. "No. No more solo shows, no ego. Create a slogan.'"
The contributing artists created 28 black posters displayed on the walls of the Ehrenhalle. Viewers could only see the messages when using military infrared night-vision goggles. It was here that the trio started engaging with the actual political situation, imagining what artists could do to make things better.
MOTA and МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE came about because the artists did not want to work in exhibition spaces any longer, in white cubes surrounded by white walls. From that moment on, the trio's slogans for peace moved into public spaces with human bodies as performers.
Ceeh, Toshain, and Makowsky say that МИР – МИРУ – FRIEDE confronts not only art fans, but passersby and tourists who unexpectedly encounter it. Venice, with its constant influx of tourists and this year's Biennale, proved to be fertile ground for their protest for peace.
ism TMC peace-forces are conceived to act everywhere and every time without being announced in advance," they say. "The [Venice] crowd loved the piece. A lot of people commented that it was one of the best works seen at the Biennale, [and] most of them didn't know it was guerilla and 'illegal,' so to speak."
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