Preview: Anguish and Enthusiasm opens at Cornerhouse.

Kate Feld

A new contemporary art exhibition ponders what to do with revolution once you’ve got it.

You say you want a revolution. Sure, that’s cool, no problem. But what comes next? That’s the question posed by Anguish and Enthusiasm, a meaty new group exhibition at Cornerhouse that is largely in alignment with austerity-inspired social unrest and the (certainly not unrelated) wholesale reawakening of political art. It’s an unusual idea for a theme; typically revolutions get all the attention. Years of discord or even oppression build up into a violent surge of action that blazes a trail across the sky, inspires outpourings of hope and sends news teams scrambling to be on the spot. For understandable reasons, we tend to hear less about what comes next, which is often messier and, ultimately, more worthy of consideration. The revolutionaries themselves are often so focused on getting control of the government that they haven’t worked out the niggling details of what they’re going to do with it when they actually get it. The results can be disastrous (been to Egypt lately?).

This is a time when ideology collides with the reality of governance

The work in this exhibition, curated by Cornerhouse’s Sarah Perks and Irish artist/curator Declan Clarke, focuses on that sometimes-messy transitional period following a shift in power. A time when compromises are made, alliances alter and different personalities move to the forefront as new skills are required. A time when ideology collides with the reality of governance.

The artists featured have approached this question from many different angles. Eoghan McTigue’s photograph of an empty noticeboard is much, much more than it first appears (it’s a commentary on student political traditions and the possibility inherent in a vacuum). Performance artist Sarah Pierce’s new work Gag deals with inhibition and suppression, while film artist Andreas Bunte looks at sites significant to the DDR in the aftermath of the Berlin Wall’s destruction, and Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc investigates the role images played in the liberation of the former Portuguese colonies. Signs seem to indicate a slight mission creep with regards to the theme, as it seems tricky to ask artists to focus on the aftermath of revolutions without considering the revolutions and how they came about.

On an exterior wall, Trust Your Struggle will be creating a mural about continued police brutality against blacks in Oakland, California (a location that was, ironically, home to the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s) and the dangerous neglect of working class ethnic communities in Austerity Britain. Go along and check it out. And if you don’t get on with the exhibition (or even if you do), may we suggest you throw your hands up in the air, loudly declare “this art is revolting”, and storm out of the gallery? We’re kidding. Kind of.

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