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Art Editorial

avfest18 AV Festival returns with answers!

George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier provided the inspiration for the AV Festival in 2016, which posed the question: Meanwhile, What About Socialism? Part 2 of the festival is set to take over Tyneside in March with artists looking to provide us with some answers.

As I write the news is broadcasting President Trump’s latest bit of wrong-end-of-the-stick-ery. He’s claiming that 1000s of people marching to save the NHS in London are actually campaigning to get rid of it. With his insights he not so much as captures lightning in a bottle, but shit. Shit in a bottle. That’s him. But this high-priest of neoliberalism (a busted flush of a belief system purporting that making the mega-rich even richer will benefit everyone) was never going to understand something like the NHS: an organisation that exists to serve the populace on a basis of need, rather than ability to pay: socialism in action, you might say. And – taking its cue from George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier – it is socialism that the next AV Festival is concerning itself with. Part 1 of the festival in 2016 offered a historical foregrounding to the theme, while Part 2 is considering the possibilities that can be opened up by going beyond capitalism as well as the impact of the fourth industrial revolution, international solidarity against oppressive economies and unfinished wars, social justice for past inequalities, and what it means to be a survivor of political collapse.

Raqs Media Collective’s new commission Provisions for Everybody travels between abandoned coal seams in northern England and an incomplete bridge in East Champaran, North Bihar, India, to mark two cardinal points in the compass of Orwell’s life. The video installation navigates the world and the possibilities of going beyond capitalism by reading the Buddha’s Charter of Free Enquiry across fragments from Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.

Bianca Baldi’s new work Classic Scent focuses on the north-east as a model for the development of the four industrial revolutions. The English baroque opulence of Vanbrugh’s Seaton Delaval Hall becomes an architectural marker of the resources extracted from the surrounding landscape. In a cycle of still images, fire is the transformative medium joining together two different architectural archetypes – a baroque hall burns and is resurrected into a high-rise tower block.

Prabhakar Pachpute’s new site-specific installation at The Mining Institute is inspired by his visit to the north-east and the strong empathy, solidarity and connection experienced by the artist in the coal mining areas of Durham and Northumberland. His work is strongly informed by the working conditions, relentless excavation and unequal social development.

Another of the new commissions for the festival is Pallavi Paul’s video installation Cynthia Ke Sapne/The Dreams of Cynthia. Cynthia is imagined as a literary character from a contemporary Hindi poem of the same name; she also bears witness to the lives of two people – an executioner and a trans artist whose lives are intertwined within a small town in North India and with each other through an informal history of labour, violence and death.

The exhibition features UK premieres of existing works including the three-screen video installation Twelve by South Korean artist Jeamin Cha, based on the content of the 2015 South Korean Minimum Wage Commission negotiations, a meeting held behind closed doors to debate a key public issue. Vitalij Strigunkov’s Waiting adds a political commentary voiceover to the television news report of the US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Lithuania on 18 March 2014, the same day of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Three further installations are re-contextualised by the festival theme. Lucy Parker’s film installation Apologies, questions the worth of apologies delivered by the state or corporations, referencing blacklisted construction workers in the UK. Naeem Mohaiemen’s Last Man in Dhaka Central, explores what it means to be a survivor of political collapse, by unspooling the memories of Peter Custers – a Dutch journalist in 1970s Bangladesh as the military coup ended the country’s first socialist government. Anton Vidokle’s The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun, probes the influence of Cosmism philosophy which called for social equality, material transformation and immortality.

There will also be plenty of discussions throughout the festival and film screenings too, including the UK premiere of Raoul Peck’s new film The Young Karl Marx (pictured). Peck scored a big international hit with his documentary I Am Not Your Negro, and his latest feature chronicles the meeting of the young Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels and the writing of the Communist Manifesto in 1848.

There will be a focus on Chile’s most internationally recognised filmmaker Raúl Ruiz and a new commission by Newcastle-based artist Leah Millar looking at collective memory and social history through the post-industrial River Tyne landscape, alongside films by Amber Films.

Other screenings include the UK premieres of Sylvain L’Espérance’s epic Combat au bout de la nuit, about Greek people’s resistance to an oppressive economy and the troika; and Oleg Mavromatti’s Monkey, Ostrich and Grave revealing the hidden pain of the unfinished Russian/Ukrainian War. There will also be films by leading Asian filmmakers including Wang Bing’s Bitter Money focusing on migrant workers; South Korean artist Im Heung-soon’s Factory Complex about marginalised female workers; and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s By the Time it Gets Dark, taking the 1976 student massacre in Bangkok as its starting point.

For the full low-down, make sure that you visit the website, below.

AV Festival: Meanwhile, What About Socialism? Part 2, 3-31 March. For details of the full programme, venues, dates, opening times and prices, please visit: