A WINNING SMILE

Emotional Authoritarianism

Machine for Winning, 2016. Performance to camera in wearable paintings, digitally post-produced.
Digital C-type print 101.6 x 76.2cm.

Is authoritarianism closing in? Its impossible not to look back to 1930s Europe, a time not without exception, of political and economic instability, and desperate inequality. Parallels cannot help but be drawn. Despite international concern over Nazi Germany’s racist policies and human rights violations, Berlin was allowed to host the 1936 Olympics, and a pageantry of propaganda and ideology was broadcast globally. Tried and tested, nation states continue to harness their athletes’ life time of work and spectator enjoyment, to cynically exploit the games. To date, Olympian ideals of peaceful competition and internationalism are socio-historic moments used for political gain and to whitewash all sorts of excesses, corruption, and exploitation.

Olympic Dreams-installed at Peckham Market

Machine for Winning: Dictator 2016. Installed at Market Peckham, part of group exhibition Olympic Dreams.

This series of performative paintings, documented at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre during a residency in 2016, uses dark humour to explore the performance of ideology, the psychology of control, and the suppression free speech. I become the dictator who without speaking communicates through signs and symbols, demanding that their subjects coordinate their emotions and act as required, to not think or speak. I am the athlete – the machine for winning. I am the spectators who smile and do nothing, and let a new order evolve that preferences fascism.

Olympic Dreams Zine

Olympic Dreams Zine 2016. 8-page full colour printed on newspaper.

Machine for Winning was made in collaboration with Kim Thornton, Jackie Brown and Léonie Cronin and collectively exhibited as Olympic Dreams. Broadly inspired by the history and politics of the Olympic Games. We worked together to produce a series of photographs and objects tackling themes of politics and propaganda, inclusivity and equality, achievement and restriction.

Smile Club Wearable Painting: Nervy 2016. Oil on canvas panel and canvas tape.
5 x 10 x 0.7cm, other dimensions variable.

The smile painting I wear throughout, references ‘Smile Club’ an experiment carried out in 1930s Budapest, Hungary, by Professor Jeno, a psychotherapist and Binczo, a hypnotist, who jokingly set out to teach people to smile like Hollywood stars. Budapest, known to its citizens as The City of Suicides, was extremely troubled by Nazi Germany’s increasing influence, and was in the grips of a suicide craze. The quack and the clown believed that the physical process of smiling would enhance the national mood. In part, they were right. Smiling caught on and neurological science has proven that the act of smiling does help people access happy feelings, however, if nothing is done about the structural causes of societal distress, depression and populism are likely outcomes and atomised people come together under regimes.

A Winning Smile, 2016. Performance to camera in wearable paintings.