In a room filling installation, consisting of projections of digitally produced videos, the artist introduces the legend of the phoenix that flies from paradise to earth, to die. The voice over speaks of her last song, in which she addresses the child that will be born from her ashes. The song is an appeal to the child to think and live beyond the power structures and values of today’s world and to create a new world that transcends the present.
The old legend is staged against the background of the present day world, which is characterized by extreme and growing inequalities, persistent crises and the rise of right-wing nationalism. Phoenix’s Last Song is based on the work of feminist thinkers like Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Simone de Beauvoir and Emma Goldman, all of whom reflect on how children’s upbringing contributes to retaining the existing capitalist, patriarchal and colonial power structures. According to them, the foundation of these power structures is already laid early in life, by institutes like the traditional family, educational institutions, government institutions and the media.
Yet, Audre Lorde writes: “All our children are outriders for a queen of not yet assured” – thus if we want to think about a world that differs from the present, it is vital that we focus on the education and treatment of our children. Hannah Arendt sees in the child, a new human being, the potential to break with the existing and start anew. “Freedom”, she writes, “is identical with the capacity to begin” – and exemplary for that new beginning is birth.
In her exhibition Phoenix’s Last Song, Van Meel uses metaphor to share her perspective on parenthood a world she likes to see changed: as an opportunity to bring about renewal. The project exposes current power structures, but most of all it is a plea to deal with them -as a world citizen, as a parent and as a child. The story it tells us dares to dream beyond this world.
As part of the exhibition Phoenix’s Last Song, Sami El-Enany has composed new music. The voice-over is read by Emma Bennett.
Opening: Friday 8 February 2019, 5-8 pm
Exhibition: 9 February – 31 March 2019