International Biennial of Contemporary Art Ljubljana,
23 June - 24 September 2000
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Cankarjev Dom
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Colin Darke
  *1957, lives in Derry

Stilts and Crutches, 2000, drawing and written text on the wall

The artistic practice of Colin Darke is closely linked to his political orientation. One of the fundamental issues that generates his art is the following dilemma: is it possible to speak of the existence of a class-motivated, proletarian culture, and what are the conditions for it to function? Through the political discourse of the traditional left, Darke deals with conditions in which subversive ideas merge with the prevailing bourgeois culture, without achieving their original purpose. He advocates the premise that the mechanisms of the bourgeois cultural model are capable of muting the effect of revolutionary intentions in art, reshaping them, and thus adopting them into the artistic scheme of its own. The project Stilts and Crutches reaches deep into the historical context of society. It deals with relationships between concrete historical events and political texts and artistic production that allude to them. Darke chose the year 1848 as a historical event and the changes in the social relations that were ushered in by the Bourgeois Revolution in Europe. As a political text, he chose the 1924 lecture by Leon Trotsky Class and Art. As a representative of artistic production, Darke opted for the 1848/49 painting by Charles Landell, Republic, an example of the French allegorical classicism modelled on the visual principles of realism. The project is carried out in a "work-in-progress" style, which involves the redrawing of Landell's Republic and the rewriting of Trotsky's text. The size of the drawing is adapted to the size of the gallery wall which was allotted to the artist. The modification of the original dimensions points to the question of artistic autonomy, because the actual execution of the author's artistic idea must often follow the restrictions of a given art institution. The drawing is contoured by a narrow strip of whiteness, a kind of "hole", as Darke puts it, which the charcoal does not touch. Within this white strip, there are twenty columns of text containing the lecture by Leon Trotsky Class and Art expressing the essence of the whole idea behind this artistic project: "While the class-motivated political writing hurries along on stilts, artistic endeavours lag behind, limping on crutches".

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