The hanging and burning of effigies in political protests is rooted in practices of exclusion, which have long been part of the repertoire of communal justice, as well as in rituals of purification. As a political protest genre, it is most often used in conflicts that appear to lack other possibilities of recourse.
Similar to the early-modern spectacle of punishment, the spectacle of the effigy performance makes the transgression of norms visible on the body of the perpetrator. Furthermore, the transgression is visualized in the e gies themselves through the aesthetics of the grotesque. As one form of the grotesque, demonization places the depicted outside the category of the human. The resulting hybrid creatures show features that are associated with evil and the impure: pigsnouts, dogfaces, devilhorns, or werewolf-fangs. Added to the effigies are other signs signifying evil, like the swastika, the star of david, dollarsigns, or the acronym CIA. The effigies often show an excess of signs that not necessarily stroke with each other, but that all are meant to reveal the truth that was hidden behind the mask of the human being.
Presenting a wealth of images, Göttke will show that although the aesthetics of the e gies is culturally speciffic, iconographically the demonizing signs are surprisingly consistent and easily legible across cultural and temporal borders. This hints to the importance of communication in the operation of revealing evil.
(Löwen und Adler is a project about the displacement of symbolic political artefacts during the cold war in Berlin.)
Florian Göttke (Gelsenkirchen, 1965) is a visual artist and researcher based in Amsterdam. Göttke investigates the function of public images and their relationship to social memory and politics. His lecture and book Toppled, about the fallen statues of Saddam Hussein, is a critical study of image practices of appropriation and manipulation in contemporary media society. Toppled was nominated for the Dutch Doc Award for documentary photography in 2011. He is at work on a PhD in Artistic Research entitled Burning Images – performing e gies as political protest at the University of Amsterdam and teaches at The Dutch Art Institute / MFA ArtEZ in Arnhem.
Hallway Artwork by Suyoung Yang
Poster design by Gilles de Brock