I was invited to a small workshop at Tate Modern last friday (with folks like Chantal Mouffe, Mike Shapiro, John Armitage, Naeem Mohaiemen and many others – the ‘overly romantic’ Bernadette Buckley was enthusiastic) to discuss the possibilities for an ‘Art’ event next year at Tate. One of their big events, well funded, they were looking for suggestions and dominant thinking was along the lines of having a conference on Art and War and maybe commissioning an artist to do a ‘piece’. My humble contribution, based on frustration and fury at so much murder death kill on my TV, was to denounce the idea of yet another coffee chat and champers soiree for the elite about artists and contemporary conceptual arabesques that are worthy but do little but pat us on the back for being alienated angry and helpless art lovers. The issue for me is what would be adequate to win the war against the terrorists and criminals that run our lives and ruin so many others (cf Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran…). So, lets instead have an event in the turbine hall that does something that at least suggests the direction in which adequacy might be found – the People’s Tribunal War Crimes Trial of Tony Blair. Gore Vidal as the prosecutor, I guess Chris Hitchens as the defence. Who to get as judge to do the thumbs up or down at the end still open? And some other logistical matters to be decided… The thing to do afterwards will of course require more than touching faith in legal process, but a successful people’s tribunal at the most successful gallery in the world could also then help legitimise the people’s march on Westminster to ….
The point was made that it does not matter if this degenerates into farce or parody of ‘the law’ or ‘the courts’ – when the law suggests there might be a non-criminal way to bomb Afghanistan/Iraq etc, then anything that gets masses of people fired up enough to do more than march past Westminster to Hyde Park is better. Thus instead to rather march into the halls of power and turf out the jokers that sit on those plush chairs (boards of directors, lords and lairds) means something that seems more like justice (not legal justice, but people’s justice) might be on the cards.
Idealistic? Overly romantic? Perhaps. But always possible, and necessary now more than ever.