Fashioning Violence

Last Riot 2, Tondo #12, 2005

A question the artistic collective AES+F ask of themselves is: despite our technological advancement, how different are we psychologically from the people who lived in antiquity?

The four artists of AES+F, Tatiana Arzamasova (1955-), Lev Evzovich (1958-), Evgeny Svyatsky (1957-) and Vladimir Fridkes (1956-), explore this query through highly produced video and photographic works that draw on their respective backgrounds as architects (Evzovich and Arzamasova), a  designer (Svyatsky) and a fashion photographer (Fridkes). Their project, Last Riot (2005), is a twenty-minute video triptych set to a Wagnerian soundtrack. Borrowing a vast set of references drawn from the archive of Western representation, they combine Baroque posing with propaganda, fashion photography, advertising, and computer games.

The photographic stills from the Last Riot project, such as Tondo #12, recall the history paintings of the nineteenth century which depicted historical, and sometimes contemporary events, on an operatic and often idealised scale. In paintings and sculptures, heroic acts and savage deeds and their associated emotions of awe, pride and horror were communicated to audiences through triumphant poses and the display of beautiful and uncorrupted bodies. AES+F borrow these stylistic traits to draw a parallel with today’s computer games, with their battle royales set in fictional digital worlds.

The half-naked adolescents of Tondo #12 wield their swords and bows with a bloodless detachment, performing the same fantasy of violence for the camera that they might later play on their game consoles. The vision of these idealised worlds with their romanticised depictions of brutality might be generated through paint or pixels, but they force us to recognise the violence that underpins the history of humans and the ways in which we continue to enact, yet neglect, the realities of that violence.