MORE ICE CREAM
IWANCZAK & SUZANNE TREISTER - Workshop and video project
for ICOLS CRECHE
RIOT - I WANNA RIOT / WHITE RIOT - A RIOT OF MY OWN / WHITE
RIOT - I WANNA RIOT WHITE RIOT - A RIOT OF MY OWN
PEOPLE GOTTA LOT A PROBLEMS / BUT THEY DON'T MIND THROWING
WHITE PEOPLE GO TO SCHOOL / WHERE THEY TEACH YOU HOW TO
AN' EVERYBODY'S DOING / JUST WHAT THEY'RE TOLD TO
AN' NOBODY WANTS / TO GO TO JAIL!
THE POWER'S IN THE HANDS / OF PEOPLE RICH ENOUGH TO BUY
WHILE WE WALK THE STREET' / TOO CHICKEN TO EVEN TRY IT
DOING / JUST WHAT THEY'RE TOLD TO
NOBODY WANTS / TO GO TO JAIL!
YOU TAKING OVER / OR ARE YOU TAKING ORDERS?
ARE YOU GOING BACKWARDS / OR ARE YOU GOING FORWARDS?
The Clash White Riot (Strummer/Jones)
best lack all conviction/while the worst are full of passionate
'The Second Coming' WB Yeats
have all heard and understand the phrase 'a children's crusade',
although when you think a little more about it is not easy
to attach a single unitary meaning to it. A web search on
the phrase brings up everything from a church youth initiative
to social action to ensure childrenıs education in the inner
city. It does seem to speak of innocent unspoiled expression
coming deep from the heart.
Certainly in overtly Christian contexts the innocence is
seen as paramount, giving some sort of visionary quality
- bunches of smiling uncorrupted kiddies wreathed in light
travelling towards some salvation that their youth - and
lack of exposure to the ways of the world - guarantees -
as opposed to the rather rockier path that the more hardened
occluded sinner is meant to travel.
Within the rhetorics of religiosity this loading is maybe
because the youthful soul is seen as having 'only just arrived'
in this world, therefore less sullied by sin, and closer
to its ideal state.
When it comes to the historical event(s) that gave rise
to the phrase things are murkier and darker. Between 1200
and 1212 there were marches lead by two youths - one Stephen
of Cloyes in France and another Anthony in Germany. Independently
they set across Europe with bands of people who may have
been youth, or may have been composed of the lower orders
and therefore seen to be like children, legend has it up
to 20,000 in number.
Thousands starved of hunger or died of cold in the Alps,
and those who survived to commission ships to take them
to the 'Holy Land' were sold into prostitution and slavery
by the captains that they had hired.
Despite this being a vicious debacle, Catholic sources talk
of this event as returning to the 'purity' of the crusader
ideal- one can only believe because they are dazzled by
the reputed youth of the participants. Whatever the truth,
these events became legend and culturally entrenched.
Generally we privilege the idea of youth with possessing
insights and agendas that are more deeply felt and better
somehow than those that have compromised by time and life.
The 'idealism of youth' is referred to in a way that is
a combination of admiration, nostalgia and distain.
Similar approaches and attitudes have become entrenched,
mythologised, and commodified by popular culture - from
flower children dreamily placing blooms in the gun barrels
of soldiers (who are working for 'The Man' ) to the high-spirited
gang in Scooby Dooby Doo always uncovering the dastardly
plots of dishonest grown ups, to soft focus shots of Shirley
Temple type kids asking lispily why adults canıt just bury
their differences and live together?ı in a thousand domestic
break up movies. Out of the mouths of babes etcetera.....echoing
the innocence that we are meant to have possessed before
the Adamantine Fall.
Our culture has come to privilege the unmediated response
over the mediated and to glamorise the spontaneous gesture
as being of a transcendental order of 'realness' and therefore
of a great value.
Look at the comparison of the inactive (and by implication
effete) 'schooled' white to the direct action taken by black
people in the lyrics to the Clash's 'White Riot'. Somewhere
in the unconscious racial stereotyping of the song we can
locate the ghost of Rousseau walking with the noble savage,
closer to the ways of nature and therefore to 'natural law'
before the will was sapped and the moral view occluded by
the lies of civilisation.
Generally in the stories and rhetorics of the Left and the
Right the 'spontaneous' uprising of the oppressed proletarian
or the honest Aryan is fetishised and memorialised, and
a great deal of energy and effort invested in making political
actions riots, uprisings, whatever -seem as unstoppable
expressions of energy and emotion - as 'natural' events
rather than social or constructed ones.
In this scenario this 'Realness' and emotional truth are
constructed to give the act a weight and an essential autonomy
against the artificial hypocrisies and engines of oppression.
The moral and the truthful are located somewhere in nature
rather than in culture.
Slowly and inevitably we drift to the position where any
deracinated gesture of oppositionı becomes privileged without
any consideration of its usefulness or value in actual or
political terms being taken into account. In the contexts
of the 'art world' the work that is seen as political (no
matter how idiotic and feeble) is seen to be removed from
the epicine and complicit bourgeois codings of the art world
or indeed from any of the criteria that would normally be
used to determine whether something was any 'good' or not.
It is Realı. To say that a work which expresses itself
as being against exploitation is terrible is to identify
yourself as being with the forces of oppression. Conversely
it is a given that any work that claims to be in oppositionı
is de facto goodı. This generous if simple minded equation
has encouraged unfortunate outcomes.
As if in perverse recognition of the way that we value ideas
of the innocent and the spontaneous as means of legitimisation
for actions, a great deal of time and effort has in turn
been spent in describing political actions as being constructed.
Marches are described by the authorities (or the opposition)
as being 'orchestrated' by shadowy others who are taking
advantage of innocent participants and real grievances to
their own dark and nefarious ends, events are infiltratedı.
There is an enemy within, people who are responsible for
the action becoming badı protest rather than goodı protest.If
something has become mediated it has, it seems, lost its
In these common political constructions and exchanges around
the ideas of childhood, youth and innocence, curiously what
doesnıt get a look in are the activities of the playfulı
The act that is seen as playfulı or anarchic or mischievous
is suspect as it is both dangerously solipsistic and dangerously
fluid. Within the gestural vocabularies of political action
it has come to be seen as anathema as playı threatens
the orderings of the real and is in a state of permanent
This mutates into the area of social event and language
described by Bakhtin as The Carnivalesque: which has as
its function to uncover, undermine even destroy, the hegemony
of any ideology that seeks to have the final say about the
world The video tape of child protesters makes us question
the way we read and load this event and other similar events.
The staging of the march and the promiscuous and generous
spread of issues and manifestos embraced by the marchers
(drugs, smoking, housing, ice cream) serves to atomise our
readings and our certainties. It starts to subvert the idea
of subversion itself, opening up a hall of mirrors and ushering
the event into a context where images and actions are reflected
into infinity, become manifold and various, removed from
easy narrations or simple causality.