While modern nation states are often predicated on democratic ideals, the pursuit of equal rights continues to be of critical importance throughout the world. Polish artist Artur Zmijewski’s 20-channel video installation Democracies 2009 features public demonstrations and celebrations in eastern Europe, Israel and the West Bank. Screening simultaneously with competing sound, the footage creates a cacophony of dissent – a mix of order and antagonism. The funeral of the controversial right-wing Austrian politician Jörg Haider is included alongside an anti-NATO rally in Strasbourg, protests in both Israel and Palestine against the war in Gaza, and a Loyalist march in Belfast. Zmijewski has stated that he called the work Democracies because ‘it’s a lie’. His installation problematises the idea of democracy, revealing its contradictions and limitations.
Closer to home, the animation It’s like that 2003, by the Southern Ladies Animation Group gives voice to children who were held in detention centres in Australia at that time. Tony Albert’s Sorry 2008 recalls former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology on 12 February 2008 ‘for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss’ on Indigenous Australians. Fiona Pardington’s ‘Ahua: A beautiful hesitation’ photographic series is a reminder of how science has been pressed into service historically to bolster an existing or desired political order. Political theorist Antonio Negri recently stated that ‘The export of democracy has been transformed into a new form of imperialism that has surpassed anything we could imagine!’, and suggests that the fundamental problem is ‘how to find ways of recreating an authentic democratic circulation and free movement’.