RoN

REPUBLIC of NOWHERE (RoN)

Follow your star.

BACKGROUND

I was recently lucky enough to spend a week on an organic farm near Reus where people like myself who are not ‘official’ artists were given free reign to produce some form of art or creative expression.

My contribution to Growing Nowhere was initially supposed to be a mural, but the cerebral soup I had been stirring all year – researching and mulling over the GDR, Berlin and the Wall – manifested itself in the form of an installation.

A couple of concepts I’d been playing with fell into place when I discovered an unlikely treasure trove of objects in the grounds of the farm. From eery white mannequins to olive green military-style loudspeakers, there was a wealth of material to work with.

Our workers were strong and brave, and worked tirelessly.

BUILDING

Applying a little ingenuity and a lick of paint, house bricks became CCTV cameras and sink pipes became periscopes. Amazingly, I also stumbled across army-style clothes  of a similar colour to the East German border police uniform. This was topped-off with a peaked cap and a sinisterly smiling mask to represent the false friendliness of officialdom in oppressive regimes.

An empty shop was represented by a dilapidated display case and some ancient lawn mowers were used as ironic representations of Eastern Bloc consumer goods.

No milk today, my centrally-planned economy has run astray.

But what really made it was the environment: our host had accumulated a bizarre collection of junk that lay around this horse-soiled gravel area giving it a post-apocalyptic feel of barren gloom. And in the heart of it, my own Wall.

The tyre barrier in question will eventually form an environmentally-friendly ‘mother ship’; but for now it was the frontier I would march my guests up once they had been inducted into the Republic of Nowhere and proved themselves loyal.

THE TOUR

My unwitting proletariat would be a small section of the local Catalan townsfolk who came to the farm for an end-of-week show. One spartan light bulb gave a dim light by the perimeter, and I would use a powerful ‘searchlight’ to pick out various areas – such as the ‘minefield’ or the ‘re-education zone’, complete with a treatment wheelchair and waiting line for the ideologically ill.

Rehabiliation for the weaker members of society.

When Saturday came, it all went to plan. 20 or so guests were taken from the unwordly installation next door, with its mysterious singing shapes and ‘magic at the bottom of the garden’ feel, and plunged into the harsh reality of the Republic.

Their guide on the art tour, the multi-lingual Massimo, turned out to be a party member. Having delivered my  new citizens to me, he had donned his mask in the dark and  he joined me in front of them, translating as I explained they were now under the ‘protection’ of the Republic.

Our brave boys on the border always had a smile for the workers.

The current ‘regime’ had proved unreliable, they were told, and to avoid instability forces loyal to the original Growing Nowhere project had seized control. But life was going to be good here. There were scooters (only a 4-year waiting list), ‘new’ lawnmowers and even a shop (pointedly empty).

With a giant yellow earthmover we would build the glorious new Republic; though due to the actions of hostile external forces – who would like to undermine our happiness and see us fail –  there were not the parts to make the machine work.

Beyond the ‘labour area’  a minefield contained two bodies;  these were comrades who had not shared our aims and who had selfishly tried to pursue their own agenda outside the Republic. This was unfortunate but unavoidable. Perhaps foreign spies had bought their loyalty and turned them against their comrades?

Sadly, a few selfish individuals tried to abandon their comrades.

Or perhaps they were workshy delinquents who disagreed with the output quota. Measured in ‘artistic units’, this quota would be necessary to build our strong and prosperous future together. Outlined on a rotating sign, it started at 1,000,000 per day, but due to directives from above it had to double, triple and eventually quadruple during the course of the tour.

Finally, I showed them the Wall. Constructed not to keep our citizens in, but to keep out jealous aggressors who coveted what we had achieved, it was monitored by cameras for their own protection. It was this barrier that would keep them safe from ‘external provocations’ as we all marched as one under the slogan of “Unity, Strength, Power”.

Its 'USP' was USP.

CONCLUSION

Our Spanish guests seemed to like it. Only one citizen did not march in step as instructed at the end, but they saw the error of their ways and emerged from the re-education wheelchair committed to the glorious future that we were building in the united Republic of Nowhere.

FEEDBACK

The Wall had already been defaced when some ideologically unsound locals acted autonomously and added their own touches with spray paint. Sadly, the RoN fell before action could be taken against these subversive individuals.

Subversives at work with their decadent use of colour!

But there was one Spanish speaker that night who was not local. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you so much. You got it right. I’m 52 and I lived through all that under the Junta in Argentina . That’s what it was like.”

High praise indeed. And so, humbled but happy, this border guard took off his mask, picked up the vodka and toasted the dying Republic. It had achieved what it set out to do, and had now reached the end of its usefulness. I removed my cap, took down the “Halt” sign and wondered what the new wind would blow in from over the Wall.

If you’d like to know more about the real Berlin Wall, the inspiration for this installation, check out my other blog <a href=”http://runningtheberlinwall.wordpress.com”>Running the Berlin Wall</a>.

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Responses

  1. I LOVE IT……….

    • Thanks Emily, very kind. Couldn’t have made it happen without the creative space provided by Growing Nowhere.


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