Interview with Latifa Echakhch
How does Speakers’ Corner relate to your practice in general?
I remember hearing about Speakers’ Corner in my secondary school English lessons. I was completely amazed by this idea that people in Great Britain are allowed to make wild public speeches as long as they bring their own crate to stand on. But on the other hand, a speakers’ corner is a very localised and limited territory. Can we consider an exhibition space as a speakers’ corner and a crate for shipping art as a protected space, like a diplomatic suitcase?
How did you decide to use the particular materials of each piece in the exhibition?
I like the idea of a soapbox as a political tool - it gives politics a materiality. I am interested in the potentiality of a simple wood crate. It can be seen as a one person podium, a Minimal sculpture or simply a crate with something hidden inside.
The four elements of the exhibition all relate to public forms of political expression. What does it mean to isolate them from their context and present them in a gallery?
For Speakers’ Corner I chose to work with elements related to easily identifiable political forms of expression. Emptying these materials of their content and leaving them as obsolete objects in the corner of a white space makes possible a state of strangeness and poetic transfiguration.
What is a speakers’ corner without a speech, a soapbox without an orator?
It’s like carbon paper without any sentences, the flag poles without flags, or a tyre already burned. What interests me most about these objects is that we can appreciate their potential uses, even if we render them functionless.
The title of For Each Stencil A Revolution is a quotation by Yasser Arafat. It was a comment about this political period at the end of the 1960s when a lot of demonstrations and strikes emerged in every part of the world, and for each stencil used a little revolution began. The significance of carbon paper is not the same for everybody. For people of my generation it’s a reminder of the time before the widespread use of photocopies at school when we received exercises or lessons from our teacher in this very smelly A4 paper. For people who were active politically during 1968 it’s the memory of nights passed by printing tracts with a stencil machine. For others it’s just a very archaic material, no longer used today.
Several burned tyres are installed with no smoke, fire or smell, just a vague black circle set down on the floor. The last traces of a violent rebellion.
Fantasia, the empty flagpoles, is an installation built in the space. Flagpoles are usually positioned outdoors, high above us and at an opened angle, celebrating international co-operation. Here they are installed in a closed angle inside the room, crossing each other like a chaotic fight. It can be seen as an attempt at staging an international celebration in an enclosed space which didn’t work at all, proving the opposite of its message of hopeful optimism.
There is a narrative running through the exhibition of different relationships to state power figured by Fantasia: you have the individual (Speakers’ Corner), the organised (For Each Stencil A Revolution), and spontaneous (Smoke Ring). Which has the most potential?
The opposing elements of the flagpole and the crate, the stencil and the burned tyre, are also related to the masses and the individual. I don’t really know which have the most potential. I don’t have any special desire to change society, but maybe all of these elements together can make the beginnings of the perfect and strongest revolution!