Andy Field. Art and Resistance

Reflection on Open Academy in Munich

1

In the souvenir photograph
You stand in the middle of a street of one-quarter scale plasterboard skyscrapers
Cracks spider across the painted windows
And gas-controlled fires blaze from the skeletons of cars
There is smoke
And the glow of sirens

From the photograph you can see that the camera has been positioned low and at an angle
To mimic the look of a shot taken quickly on a mobile phone

You are in the centre of the picture surrounded by a number of other visitors
You are all in flip flops
t-shirts
and sunglasses
Cameras are hung around your necks
In the distance a line of riot officers
are walking towards you
banging their shields
You can’t see their faces
fireworks fizz behind them
You are all smiling
You are chanting
Whose streets
Our streets
Whose streets
You strike poses
Arms out like wings
head raised
mouth open
Someone holds a sugar glass beer bottle flung way back over one shoulder
like the beginning of a tennis serve
Someone has taken their t-shirt off and tied it over their nose and mouth
You are all laughing

The riot officers are coming closer
This is the part just before the part where you get arrested
You could have kept running
Tried to lose them on a neighbouring street
But you had advanced booked tickets to a matinee performance of Cirque Du Soleil
And that was all the way on the other side of the park
It really was the best day ever

Only a few weeks after the photograph was taken
the attraction was shut down
A few tourists
Maybe a little the better or worse for alcohol
and pumped up by the carefully mixed soundtrack
of alarms and shouts and explosions
broke free of the attraction’s scaled down streets
and started to smash windows and set fire
to fast foods restaurants and gift shops
in nearby areas of the resort
The tourists were quickly apprehended
and dealt with severely
But after an internal inquiry
It was decided that it was probably safer to shut down the attraction altogether

2

It began normally enough
with a show
on a stage
in a small theatre
on the edge of a big city

The show was in many ways
unremarkable
a low budget production
with a cast of three
and a small amount of funding from the government
It was called something like
The Immaterial City
or
Any World That I'm Welcome to Is Better Than the One I Come from
Its set was made from tattered old flags
hand-painted placards
and photocopied pictures of
Walter Benjamin
Marx and Gramsci
Emma Goldman
Ulrike Meinhof
Martin Luther King
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Aylan Kurdi
Although the press had largely ignored the show
or called it
'esoteric and well-meaning but impossibly sentimental'
the performers themselves were happy enough with how things were going

On the night in question
there was an audience of around 30 or 40 in attendance
for the moment in the show
when
a performer
speaking into a microphone
invites the audience on stage
with the instruction to
imagine a better world
and start to live it

Normally this was followed
by a pause
some uncertainty
and one or two audience members
getting up to draw a picture of a flock of sparrows
or something
but on this night
quite unexpectedly
all 30 or 40 audience members took to the stage
and began to assemble for themselves
a living shelter
from the artificial detritus littered around them

It took them several hours
(much longer than the show's usual duration)
ably assisted by the former performers
and when they were done everyone was so lost
in the activity they entirely forgot
to leave the theatre

When the following night's audience arrived
they were all still there
building and rebuilding
scavenging food from the venue's canteen
and playing music on a set of borrowed speakers
The new audience watched
initially with curiosity
and then with careful attentiveness
Some left before the end
others after a short and unrequested round of applause
but others remained
joining those on stage at the end of the performance

Within a couple of weeks
the ever-growing community
had extended out into every recess of the theatre
they built bedrooms in the basement
dug allotments on the sloping roof
and hung a banner over the entrance that read
(somewhat sentimentally)
imagine a better life
and live it

At the time of writing
they are considering
extending outwards
into other nearby buildings
though on this subject
nothing has thus far
been decided

ArtAndResistance.docx (0.02 MB)