10.000 THINGS OUT OF CHINA
Essay for E-Werks
“Want to write an essay?”a curator asks.
“Something about the legacy of the Russian Revolution”.
But which legacy? There are so many conflicting accounts. The one taught in the ivy league universities bears almost no resemblance to the narrative of the revolution contested in Ukraine in the wake of decommunisation. Neither of the two matches the Chinese interpretation, and each is disconnected from the legacy I’ve encountered while inhabiting, alas briefly, the former Soviet territories.
Each of the commemoration narratives treats the revolution as an embalmed corpse, deviating only in the specific of time and place that marks the point of its demise. Such a framework is focused on the value of patrimony over consequence.
The consequence of the Russian Revolution are not Russian, nor Chinese, Polish, or Ethiopian. It does not belong to the class of workers, remaining exactly where they were as the regimes of power changed sovereigns, nor the certified ivy league authority. Yet the cumulative weight of the consequential history rests on the shoulders of a Filipino, Russian, and Sri-Lankan deck-men hired by Chinese Asia Marine to scrub the perpetual onslaught of rust on a Chinese built, Euro-owned, offshore-registered commodity carrier. A machine that is still an icon of the Russian Revolution and a tool of necrocapitalism in one, traveling circular route of history one decade at the time without an interlocutor.
The revolutionary rhizomes can be decoded in the 4/4 anthem of the Foxconn morning anthem that summons the factory staff to duty stations like a red army choir, with lyrics “we are one big family”; And in a peculiar morphology of the semiotics between the CCCC (China Communications Construction Company) and Coca-Cola, clashing in the field of view on the road between Kampala and Entebbe and inside the new Nairobi terminal. White on red, a metaphorical reminder of the revolutionary pallet, and the imperial ambitions of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In “Fish Story,” Allan Sekula identifies these multiple points in inter-relatable trajectories as simultaneously continuous cultural and industrial revolutions and the acceleration of capitalism. “Fish Story” becomes my starting point for seeing if a narrative can emerge outside of the chronology of the revolutionary error. The resulting work is an attempt to locate the revolution 100 years later not as a corpse, but as a living organism hidden in the fabric of the logistical world.
As I write this text, Air-France goes on strike, the flight that meant to take me to the exhibition where this text is presented is now cancelled, synchronising the process of reading history with the material conditions of its production.