The floor is yours
Sead Kazanxhiu weaves barbed wire to symbolically recreate a structure which happens to be the Lectern. (podium) This is a cutting reflection on the irony of destroying (erasing) boarders and provokes a new view of responsibility for territory and public speech. Sead wants to show a means of resistance which does not have to do always with using human resources to make resistance, but uses art as a form of resistance, challenging the traditional perception of cultural resistance.
Material, Barbed wire, metal (iron),
Dimension ,115x70x50 cm,
Weight 52 kg.
The floor is yours
Sead Kazanxhiu’s barbed wire lectern speaks directly to the international and local political moment. It invokes the European borders fenced against Syrian and Hazara refugees, the camps of the Holocaust, and of fascist, socialist and capitalist dictators of the past and present. The lectern is a symbol of unassailable power, of the author who announces the wounding decree and leaves the scene. The lectern also invites a speaker, to whom it promises both power and pain, before an invisible and unknowable audience. Kazanxhiu’s work raises the questions of who is allowed to speak, who listens, and at what cost. His work simultaneously answers these questions in its very structure, as a product of communal knowledge and work that resists the demands of the powerful for specific and exclusive forms of representation. The lectern as a place from which an expert speaks is a western phenomenon of the twentieth century. If we cast our mind’s eye through a history of associated images we see the United Nations meetings after World War One, the spitting rage of Hitler in the stadium, the Party plenaries of the socialist nations. Dictatorship often comes from a podium before a silent or cheering audience, while popular revolt comes from the streets. In post-socialist Europe, the form of the lectern brings to mind calm discussions in safe cities, but where is the image of the speaker who takes responsibility for imprisoning some and excluding others? In the TV news of our time, the reader simply tells us what is happening, the speech maker at his lectern is absent, or hiding. In 2016, the lectern is a tool of the weak. National governments and transnational Unions, Councils and Courts invite representatives of the oppressed and excluded to speak at their lecterns for a limited time. The speaker is expected to summarize and represent the many experiences and needs of an entire ethnic or social group, and to educate, demand, beg, and offer (economical!) solutions to the members of the majority oppressor cultures before them. While the one who stands at the lectern bears the burden of educating and convincing the audience, real power is brokered elsewhere, behind closed doors.Standing alone, Kazanxhiu’s lectern references the dominant contemporary idea that formal representation to power is the only way to change the world. The barbed wire highlights the dangers of this singular and seemingly free-standing speaking position; the speaker must choose which community voices to exclude and which to priorities. The one who speaks at the lectern travels out of community structures of knowledge, organisation and justice, to the culture of hierarchy, generalization and individualism. Travelling between the worlds of community and the neo-liberal democratic world of speaking as a representative is to work with violence. As with his portrait of Nicolae Gheorghe (2014, Romani Intellectual) and his sculptures commemorating the first Romani World Congress of 1971 (2015), Kazanxhiu’s lectern thus honours the struggle of Romani activists and intellectuals who have moved between community and representation. The lectern invites a speaker, and also requires an audience. We find ourselves the unexpected audience members, curious about the object in front of us, but not wanting to hurt ourselves by getting too close. We believe in the form – in the power of the lectern to enable a speaker, the power of a speaker to change the world– but we wonder whether words will be enough to overcome the danger for the speaker. We don’t need to speak, to risk our own skins. For the audience, the beauty of barbed wire is only a philosophical dilemma. We imagine the risks that the speaker must take with voyeuristic horror, our thoughts of ‘their’ pain reconfirm our own safety in silent spectatorship. The lectern’s construction itself overcomes the singularity of the speaking act and the ambivalence of the audience by being forged within community. This process reminds us that Romani resistance may take the form of the activist who speaks alone or the Romani artist’s work, but each of these speakers brings the knowledge, nuance and pain of the broader community. Resistance comes from complex communities where generations of traditional skills and knowledge are revised to meet the challenges of new situations. Resistance does not rely on provided platforms or podiums; communities build their own forms of resistance. The lectern demonstrates how the voiceless can weave knowledge with new energy to articulate cultural identity and demand recognition.