The performance, The Pleasure of Expense, took place 17 October, 5.30–7.30pm at Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, University of Dundee, and featured Soprano singers: Rosie McDonald, Beatrix Milan and Eilidh Thomson. Score for The Pleasure of Expense written in collaboration with composer Dejana Sekulić.
The film installation The Pleasure of Expense centres on the artist’s ongoing investigation into the idea of political gifts of culture, exploring their role within national and political structures during moments of European crisis in the 20th century. The historical case studies the artist draws on speak directly to the present moment, in which culture has become a battleground for the forces of populism in their systematic attack on critical thought, bringing once again to the fore the complex relationship between culture and the state.
The protagonists in this work are a series of what Cibic calls ‘historical ready-mades’: cultural forms that were used as political devices during key post-traumatic moments in 20th-century European history. Rather than commissions, each of these examples was a gift – an offering made by the power-brokers right at the top of the political food chain, with the aim of preventing conflict and nurturing intra- and international cohesion.
At centre of the installation Cibic sets a chapter from her latest and ongoing film project The Gift, which is entirely composed from political gifts of culture – from its location to its musical score. The film’s locations include Palais des Nations in Geneva, Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris and Mount Buzludzha in Bulgaria. The narrative of the film follows three characters, the allegorical Gifts of Art, Music and Dance, during a final round of the competition that seeks to identify the perfect gift to unite a divided nation. The scripted dialogue is drawn from archival records of discussions about soft power and the role of cultural diplomacy that led to the creation of iconic architectural and artistic manifestations of political gifts within European space.
In the installation The Pleasure of Expense, the second chapter of the film is shown. Featuring a monolog by the male allegorical figure representing Cultural Diplomacy; a man who wonders through the corridors of the Palace of Nations in Geneva, in a dream sequence of rooms adorned by antiquated European patriarchal design. On his route through the gilded rooms of the Council chamber at the Palais des Nations, gifted by the government of Spain to the League of Nations in 1936 – the room hosting the Conference on Disarmament.
The film’s themes spill out into a theatrical mise-en-scène occupying the adjacent spaces of
As culture lies threatened globally by the rise of right-wing nationalism, The Pleasure of Expense is a timely dissection of culture’s relationship with political power and the strategy of the political gift. As a tactic of soft power, the gifting of artistic and architectural works to ideological structures is essentially a tokenistic act. Entangling governments and citizens in a deliberate instrumentalising of culture for political benefit, the economy of gifting offers an enticing spectacle of benevolent solidarity.
Cibic's project composes from a gallery-specific film installation and a live performance - the ensemble of which subtlety decodes the apparatus and appearance of the nation state to open alternatives to the existing regime of political and aesthetic possibility.
Part of the exhibition, The Pleasure of Expense, 18 October – 14 December 2019, Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, University of Dundee.
The exhibition is funded by Creative Scotland.
The Pleasure of Expense, a film installation with live performance commissioned by Cooper Gallery - Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design - University of Dundee.
The Gift, Act II (2019), (part of the exhibition The Pleasure of Expense) single channel HD video.
Co-commissioned by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, steirischer herbst ‘19 and macLYON.
Co-produced by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England, steirischer herbst ‘19, macLYON and Waddington Studios London.
Supported by Cooper Gallery - Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design - University of Dundee, Northern Film School - Leeds Beckett University, UGM Maribor Art Gallery, Museum of Yugoslavia, United Nations Geneva, Espace Niemeyer.
Curatorial advisors for The Gift: Matthieu Lelièvre, Alessandro Vincentelli. Spaital design assistant Mateja Šetina. Score for The Pleasure of Expense in collaboration with composer Dejana Sekulić.