Artist: John Knight
Exhibition title: Fragments
Curated by: Ben Sang
Venue: Final Hot Desert & BSMNT, Leipzig, Germany
Date: October 23 – November 5, 2021
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Final Hot Desert & BSMNT
Redlands Ln, Itchenor,
West Wittering, Chichester
PO20 8QE, United Kingdom
Rainy Day Women #12&35 played on the stereo and Marianne Faithful was wrapped in fur when Chichester police broke down the eight-panel cottage door of the Redlands farmhouse. Faithful was busted alongside her boyfriend Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Before the raid, there had been a desire among the British press for some kind of retribution for the Stones’ libertine utopia. After the bust, the public opinion turned in favor of the Stones and Faithful, and both the raid and subsequent prosecution was seen as overly extreme and punitive. In the Times, William Rees-Mogg invoked the words of 18th century English poet Alexander Pope when he asked ‘who breaks a butterfly on a wheel’? in response to the incarceration of the rebellious but harmless kids. The Redlands occupants had been set up by an acid-dealing informant within their group who brokered his own freedom from prosecution for a prior drug bust in exchange for the Stones. Mick and Keith went to trial and Faithful was released. She exited utopia and walked toward exile. The two Stones spent a day in the hoosegow and Faithful spent a decade on the street. In 1979, she returned with Broken English, a long playing album released by Island Records, with the title track dedicated to Ulrike Meinhof, who died in Stammheim Prison in Stuttgart three years prior and whose death preceded those of her Rote Armee Fraktion colleagues on the ‘Todesnacht von Stammheim’ by five months. 1
The same year, Rainer Werner Fassbinder staged his own sort of tribute to Meinhof when his film Die Dritte Generation was first screened. Fassbinder’s ode to Ulrike portrayed the decay and atrophication of the radical European left. The film follows a terrorist cell in the wake of the Red Army Faction, as it plans the kidnapping of P.J. Lurz, played by Eddie Constantine, the CEO of a computer security systems corporation. The kidnapping plot is willingly progressed by Lurz himself in order to increase demand for his security products from the West German state. The dysfunctional group is disorganized, and rife with infighting. The cell, comprised of young bourgeois Berliners, use a code phrase to communicate: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. The World as Will and Representation – the title of Arthur Schopenhauer’s foundational work.
The group fumbles their plans, engage in petty inter-organizational disputes, and members are struck down by police, who were privy to the organization’s plot from the start, after being tipped off by P.J. Lurz and August, the de facto leader of the organization, played by Volker Spengler. They traffic in the revolutionary language of the recent generations of struggle – the students of ’68 and the RAF, but they are a mere afterimage. The utopia they communicate is less a world reimagined but a method of relating to the images of the past. They occupy the chairs and floors of spacious Berlin apartments as they bicker, sometimes over tactics, but mostly over relationships. They appear as spectators while the police and the corporation work in concert to move the plot along. The film concludes during Karneval as we find the remaining members of the group in costume and behind a camera, arranging a ransom video starring P.J. Lurz to be sent to the West German media. They frame the shot, give Lurz notes on his reading of the script, and experiment with extraneous text and sound effects for stylistic effect. The film ends before its protagonists realize it is all too late and that they were never really in command of the scene.
But intrinsically, representation lags in its temporal relation to its objects of address. A new era of commercial liberalism had already been cemented by ’73. Through the catalyst of US aid, Christian democracy took hold, decimating the last hopes, not just for communist cells within western Europe, but of a broadly inclusive labour movement. In the States, capital migrated from industrial cities like Cleveland and Newark, to the suburbs of Dallas and San Diego. 2 AK Steel, a company founded in the merging of Armco Steel and Kawasaki Steel Corporation, operated ten plants in the midwest of the United States, with its headquarters in Middletown, Ohio. After the North American Free Trade Agreement had worked its way through the veins of the Midwest and East Coast, the remaining vestiges of unionism were ill-equipped to uphold the minimum base force guarantee agreed upon by Armco and the Armco Employees Independent Federation labor union of AK Steel in Middletown, Ohio. New negotiations between the company and union led to proposals by AK Steel to cut the company’s pension plan, remove the base force guarantee at the plant and increase employees’ share of health care expenses. What followed was a one year lockout of AK Steel employees.
By the conclusion of the lockout, AK Steel had replaced its hourly employees with temporary workers. There was no returning to the circumstances that preceded the dispute and the lockout had altered the composition of the town. Like countless towns and cities in the midwest, a deindustrial landscape remained, and a countercultural vision set its focus on the past rather than the future. The terrain on which the cultural underground at the end of the 20th century emerged had long been blighted. A left-behind youth sought to rest utopia from a carceral reality in which the prospects of the left had been foreclosed on in generations prior. Constant acts of re-imaging were performed as hippy or punk cycled past the cultural lens. In the middle regions of the States, artifacts of resistance took form as representations of desire. The conditions of the beginning of the 21st century provoked a melancholic look backward at the last half of the 20th and the counter culture surveyed a vista of conclusions cascading from decades prior – a funereal march through the left’s longue durée.
Associated Press Media Archive
Masked mourners for West German urban guerrilla leader Ulrike Meinhof carried banners claiming she was murdered, to her West Berlin funeral on Saturday. Marchers with red flags handed out leaflets also claiming she was murdered.
Shotlist: 1. ms coffin onto cart, people follow
- ms mourners with masks and banners
- mcu Red Army Faction sign
- ms people handing out leaflets
Film: Rev – Sound: Mag Sof – Colour – NYFilm: c0055177 – LN Number: LN72738
The “death night” in Stammheim Prison included Red Army Faction members Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe, and Gudrun Ensslin. RAF member Irmgard Möller survived four knife wounds to the chest.
Mike Davis, Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the US 2 Working Class (London: Verso, 2018), p. 201-202.
Text by Wyatt Niehaus
- How many punks grow up to become cops? (Hoosegow punk club stage, Middletown, Ohio, USA 2003), 2021. Paint on birch plyboard with blue carpet and bondage belt.
- After October comes the period of November / When Lina E’s arrest became a ready-made meal… (after-image of Baader, Raspe and Ensslin) 2021, Plyboard, gesso, plants and soil.
- House of cards (a copy of an upscale restaurant entrance fitted for a gentrified neighborhood), 2021. Found cardboard and tape.
- I wish regret would disappear with boredom, 2021. Inkjet print and wheat paste.
- Untitled, 2021. Ambient restaurant noise dubbed over protest sound recording from May 22, 1976.
John Knight (b. 1986, Cincinnati, OH, USA) has presented solo and two-person projects in the United States at: GCADD, Granite City, IL (with Nicolo Gentile); Window Mine and the Holland Project, Reno, NV; Final Hot Desert, Salt Lake City, UT; Private Places and Muscle Beach, Portland, OR; Tela Real, Seattle (with Royce Hobbs); the American Institute of Thoughts and Feelings, Tucson, AZ; and Julius Caesar, Chicago, IL (with Matt Morris). Curatorial projects of his include: Williamson | Knight and Cherry and Lucic, Portland; and THE PINK HOUSE (Jan. 19 1995) at Bad Reputation, Los Angeles, CA. Knight works full time as a Registrar at the Missoula Art Museum, Missoula, MT.