QARADAKI AS PRIME MINISTER
Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Jay-Z, Prince, Obama, Cameron, Stoltenberg ... Qaradaki?
For over half a hundred years the ‘west’ (whatever that is) has been driven by market forces and advertising symbolism. ‘Product’ should be reduced to its bare essence, where just one drop is instantly recognisable: the Nike swoosh, Coke’s red and white, the golden arch of M (I’m lovin’ it), every car brand’s distinctive logo - a few lines, curves that generate an instant emotional reaction in the consumer viewer. Even Apple’s apple - has been replaced by an even more effective and reductive ‘i’.
If advertising wasn’t effective it wouldn’t exist. It works, and the best advertising is instant, communicating a BIG idea in half a second - playing on the reserves of prejudice all human beings carry inside them. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators and ad agencies know it. Love too, and laughter. But fear is the big daddy that reaps the most kroner.
(Are you wondering what this has got to do with art and political art, and political refugee art? Wait, I’m coming to it. I can’t Nike swoosh this catalogue text. If I had that ability, I’d be living in Manhattan in a luxury condo and not concerning myself with a little festival catalogue in the north of Norway.)
To assume that only American politics is filthy with advertising grease is a rookie mistake. Norwegian politics (there, I said it) doesn’t operate in campaign terms (although it does), and in some ways it’s more sneaky and snakey because it pretends to be so fucking clean. The worst thing is that Norwegian politicians - especially those on the right (there, I said it!) use dirty ad-tactics without even being aware of it. But let’s not cherry-pick. They want your vote, and the most effective way to get your vote is to play into your fears. In 2016 Your Biggest Fear (the collective ‘You’) seems to be Muslims (there, I said it) - or to be precise, Muslim Men, or to be even more precise Muslim Men Seeking Asylum, or to be even more precise Terrorist Muslim Men Pretending To Seek Asylum, or to get right to the heart of Your Very Worst Nightmare: Terrorist Muslim Men Who Get Asylum And Then Get Power In Your Government Eventually Turning Stortinget Over To Sharia Law And Closing Down Polets And Making Your Women Wear Full Niqab.
There, I said it, and even as I wrote it, it scared the bejeezus out of me.
Shwan Dler Qaradaki is an ethical ad-man, and a brilliant investigative journalist. With Qaradaki As Prime Minister he is Nike swooshing whole swathes of prejudice that hang in the (our) air. The image is funny and disturbing: A dark skinned man impeccably dressed like Stoltenberg or Amundsen, photo’d with a politician’s light, gestures, even down to that tie. “What does it mean!?” shrieks the (white?) sub conscious, in defiance of all political correctness. And does a black sub conscious react any differently? There’s the rub.
Qaradaki prods the beast, yet again, with humour and flat out cheek. Han er frekk æss’!
But then again, so was Martin Luther King.
With Qaradaki As Prime Minister it’s for the viewer to have a conversation with herself about the greater ramifications of the image of a (perceived) male muslim refugee in a position of power.
We’re all guilty of soft-social-pornographic labelling. Even Qaradaki himself, even when he does it with irony, he is painfully aware that he has been embraced by the establishment that he criticises, and that he has a voice where others with his background do not. Ay there’s the rub. Life isn’t a Nike swoosh. It just isn’t a polished ad, or a campaign speech. But Qaradaki’s Nike swoosh can be likened to a dog whistle. It has a pitch that will sound different to each person who hears it - depending on their own life history. When Trump becomes president - which is a horrifying likelihood - Qaradaki As Prime Minister will sound different again, in the context of a new age. Qaradaki As President ..? Personally, I’d prefer a refugee like Qaradaki become president, than Trump - that natural born turd of a human being.
And if there’s any justice in the world, Qaradaki will one day be the first ever recipient of a Nobel Prize For Art.
Kate Pendry (b. London, 1965) is a writer and actor. She is the recipient of the Ibsen Prize and is considered to be one of Norway’s most important independent stage artists. Extracts from her play about 22nd of July will be presented during FiNN at Art Lab #24.