Installations, videos and projects in public space

by Oliver Ressler

Fly Democracy


Although the real stakes behind the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan had to do primarily with geo-strategic interests and control of the oil deposits, the preferred official line to legitimize the wars in the eyes of the public spoke of their being waged to bring “democracy” to those countries. This political discourse was maintained as long as victory still seemed feasible to the armed forces of the United States and its allies. In the meantime, however, the emphasis has shifted more towards achieving “stability” in Iraq and “peace” in Afghanistan.

At the start of the military campaign, the US jet fighters did not drop only bombs: they also showered down leaflets containing messages intended for the population. These called upon the enemy soldiers to desert, warned civilians to keep at a distance from military targets, defined the pattern of behavior in case of contact with the invaders, or else relayed a general political message explaining the alleged reasons and goals of the military attack.

The “Fly Democracy” installation represents a re-enactment of this shower of message-bearing flyers, but symbolically transfers the drop’s target point to the territory of the United States. Specially drawn up for the “Fly Democracy” piece, ten flyers set forth current political arguments on behalf of direct or participatory forms of democracy, all of which stand in contradiction to the model of formal democracy that – embedded in a neo-liberal, capitalistic State – is imposed by the United States. The stance that “Fly Democracy” adopts contrasts with that model by interpreting the term “democracy” more in its original sense, as it was understood in Ancient Greece. At that time, it meant – at least for full age male citizens – more direct involvement in the decision-making processes than what exists in today’s representative democracies. “Pseudo-democracies” is how the theorist Paul Cockshott would label the latter, as measured against the word’s original meaning.

The installation consists of a five-minute video loop showing the flyers on their downward trip from a shining blue sky to the ground, where they are read by people who pick them up. The original English-language flyers are strewn on the floor in front of the video screen, together with the exhibition-destined flyers in German, French or Romanian. Visitors are welcome to pick any of the flyers up, read them and take them home.

The installation has been produced by ACC Galerie, Weimar (D); Fri-Art – Centre d’Art Contemporain, Fribourg (CH); Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg (D); 2. International Photo Festival Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg 2007 (D); and <rotor>, Graz (A) in 2007.