Tomorrow is the first of May, known as May Day, a day that traditionally marks the beginning of spring, although the weather in London last week might dispel that notion! But May Day has also been a time of protest throughout history; said to originate in 1886 with a bombing in Haymarket, Chicago.
Our work of the week is Situationist Apartment May ‘68 by Dexter Dalwood, an artist whose subjects are imaginary interiors for the homes of pop stars, notorious terrorists and key political figures. The owner of the apartment depicted here is Guy Debord (1931–94), the leading figure in the radical Marxist group the Situationist International (SI), who advocated vandalism and graffiti as forms of expression, which Dalwood has included here as chalk scrawls on the walls of the apartment.
The date in the title is significant as the SI supported the May 1968 uprisings in Paris, and students there painted slogans from Debord’s book The Society of the Spectable on buildings in the city. The central tenet of the book is that spectacle is a fake reality hiding the capitalist ruin of human life. It is interesting to consider if and how Dalwood’s choice of scene reflects his own social commentary, especially as the chalk in the painting forms copies of two works by Cy Twombly (1928–2011), at the time one of the artists commanding the highest prices for any living painter. With the word ‘freedom’ hanging precariously above the chalk, is Dalwood saying that conspicuous consumption is preventing us from being truly free?