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Amanda Beech
by Suhail Malik
Amanda Beech’s videos and digiprints retune the style of the Hollywood action
movies, ramping them up by mixing in (to date) some combination of the super-
hardboiled virulence of James Ellroy’s tabloid-urgent nailgun delivery, the
grandiose heroics of rough-and-ready webvideo footage knocked up by your
average bedroom terrorist on their PC – from cameraphone movies of car
bombs to beheading videos – and the insistent pulse of hard (b)ass techno-
electronica. With this saturation of excitement Beech prises open the persistence
of force – by which I mean the internal or external insistent, demanding,
pressuring attempt to be moved in one way or another – at all levels of our
media-soaked, urbanised cultures. Whether it is in the most gruelling of avant-
garde practices, with all their confrontation of received values, or the schlockiest
shoot-’em-ups, force rules. And it is now, as Beech constantly reminds us, an
aesthetico-political category.
The success of force and its seductive rhetoric in demanding
(ir)responsibility, individual decision, challenge and transformation – it is one of
the few socialising principles left when most others are withering away – extends
for Beech all the way to some of the toughest thinking of Western political
foundations, exposing undercurrent loyalties and affiliations that cut across the
standard distinctions between easy consumption and hard understanding:
Steven Seagal speed-dates Carl Schmitt, Thomas Hobbes tag-teams Bobby
Kennedy, Howard Hughes grabs a drink with Hannah Arendt. But neither the
glamour of fame and power nor the dowdy, arid protestation of political
philosophy gets the final say in Beech’s art, which takes their claims to be, yes,
forceful, yes, authoritative, yes, effective, and hollows them out in a remix that
matches the impact of the material pumped out of the big production houses of
power of whatever kind.
These concerns are perhaps well established in recent art that claims to
toy with power to expose it as ludicrous, void and divorced from daily concerns
and cares. But Beech’s doubling of the bombast of power doesn’t have the safety
catch of the irony/sincerity get-out clause that has characterised so much of this
type of work. Skewered on the relentless insistence of power, that axis of
innocence is exposed as a desperate grasping at the last weak straw that could
help maintain a dubious claim for the final authority of a subject that would like to
think it knows what it is doing but which, like Elvis in Vegas (a city long the subject
of Beech’s enquiries into the prosaic mechanisms of power), has already left the
building. Recalling Oswald Spengler, another of Beech’s references, a repetition
of force draining out its seductive image is extolled not so much as a signal of the
decline of the West but of its continuing success in holding us ready, geared up
for more of its enlivening, individualising, dizzying force.
from top: three stills from State Line, 2007,
dubbed single-channel video projection, 20 min;
Falk, 2006, still from dubbed single-channel
video projection, 14 min. All works: courtesy Mot
International, London
FUTURE~1.INDD 86 11/2/08 12:10:23
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