FOR WANT OF A NAIL, 2017

Single-channel video and mixed media. Dimensions variable.

First shown at Firstdraft Gallery.

FOR WANT OF A NAIL

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost

For want of a horse, the rider was lost

For want of a rider, the message was lost

For want of the message, the battle was lost

For want of the battle, the war was lost

For want of the war, the kingdom was lost:

All for the want of a horseshoe nail.

 

The proverb warns us to be alert to small failings at the beginning of our journey, in case a skipped preparatory stitch is the very thing that, compounded, causes our downfall. This is all very well; but here, standing at the precipice of (perhaps inevitable) ecological and cultural collapse, it becomes a bitter, retrospective analysis of causality.

The language of dissent, struggle and protest has been all but completely swallowed by the mechanics of reaction. We yell ourselves hoarse and wear ourselves out on this small battle or that. We get stuck, futilely arguing a million desperately important small points, and the status quo asks: “But what’s the alternative? What do you propose? Be reasonable. It just doesn’t make sense.” And then it sits back, smug, hands folded, case closed.

If the species is an organism, then resistance, both personal and political, is perhaps an antibody - a sign of an immune system reaching for health by keeping ideological imbalances in check. A gut-level, wordless, formless NO springs out of the collective unconscious from the most unexpected provocation, jumping from cell to cell, using banners to communicate the landscape of dissent.

FOR WANT OF A NAIL is a last-hour, stubborn, unreasonable demand for Something Else. We are weary, and lonely for something that we have maybe never known. Maybe we can’t name it, maybe we don’t know what it will look like, or how we can get there, or who will sweep the streets after, but does that mean we can’t still expect it, demand it, grieve for its absence? At our loveliest and most terrifying, we aren’t a reasonable animal. Nothing makes sense, not really. We live on a pebble, spinning around a flame, in an endless expanse of blackness and stars. A river can demand wordless alternatives that don’t yet make sense. Can’t it?