Carey Young–I am a Revolutionary
2001, 4 mins 8 secs
B. 1970, Lusaka, Zambia. Lives and works in London, UK
In this video, we watch the artist undergoing a presentation skills training session with a personal trainer in an office building. Young is having a lot of trouble with the line “I am a revolutionary,” which she recites again and again, with guidance from her trainer. With reference to Joseph Beuys, especially his La rivoluzione siamo noi, and within the context of the film program New-Self-Portrait-Paradox, Young’s video may be regarded as a matrix of the recent shift in self-portraiture: since the noughties, the artist can no longer claim to be a revolutionary subject but must realize that he or she has become a role model in a neoliberal society in which qualities attributed to the artist-subject, such as innovative drive, mobility, flexibility, and creativity, are no longer characteristics of a marginal position but actually lie at the core of society. The words “I am a revolutionary” could actually stem as credibly from business rhetoric as from a speech by a political agitator, while referring at the same time to the legacy of the avant-garde. Thus the peripheral status of the artist in society and the fantasies associated with it appear to have become matters that no longer need to be addressed by self-portraiture.