I am a Revolutionary
I am a Revolutionary, Carey Young, 2001
Single channel video. 4.08 minutes.
Commissioned by Film & Video Umbrella in association with John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.
In I am a Revolutionary we see the artist undergoing a presentation skills training session with her own personal trainer. Within the stage-like environment of an empty office space, its glass wall offering a cinematic view onto an atrium of architecturally epic proportions, we can see other office workers immersed in their business day in identikit cell-spaces. Young and her teacher work hard at perfecting one line from what appears to be a larger speech intended for an unknown audience. Young is having great trouble with the line - "I am a revolutionary" - words which could equally come from heroic 'business leadership' rhetoric as from the words of political or anti-globalisation agitators, equally as it seems also to refer to the legacy of the avant-garde. Repeating the words again and again in a series of fruitless attempts to sound credible, Young tries to internalise the message so that it becomes something she personally believes. To her trainer, the words seem unproblematic, as if they are just another message that can be spouted to an audience like any other within the realm of popular or political culture.
Referring to the iconography of Joseph Beuys, especially his lecture-based works, I am a Revolutionary presents Young and her trainer in a somewhat pathetic quest for a 'radical' position. The work refers to the ways in which modes of dissent have become increasingly commodified, with Che Guevara's face, for example, a familiar icon on tshirts or advertising hoardings and 'revolution' a familiar boardroom mantra in these days of increasing business competition. It seems there is no 'outside' left, no clear position for critical distance that is not soon incorporated back into the flow of capital around the globe. I am a Revolutionary points to this in a cyclical sense: the artist and her helper appear suspended in a continuum of repetition, effort and belief that change may be possible.