A re-imagining of the 1966 World Cup (in the very dim light of Brexit).
by Simon Tyszko
featuring Pierluigi Billone’s 1+1=1
performed by Dunscombe-Endean Duo
presented by the ClapTON ensemble
remixed for Empire.
a text by Gareth Evans: Whitechapel Gallery Adjunct Moving Image Curator.
As the 'United' Kingdom (specifically England) slips further into the sea, into both the rising salty brine of its founding climate alterations and the mire of its own increasing irrelevance and ineptitude, Simon Tyszko's Empire reveals itself as perhaps the definitive explanatory - and surprisingly redemptive - text, hiding in plain sight, we could hope for at such a time.
Yes, it rewinds, using FIFA's own footage, the 1966 World Cup Final, locus of England's only win at such a level, one achieved on home ground, against a visiting team unmatched in terms of symbolic resonance.
Yes, it captures moments of epiphanic melancholy, as balls retreat from the goal nets, from their dream, their very reason, returning to the foot like errant children home; as the Queen takes back the Jules Rimet Trophy from captain Bobby Moore, wiping the smile from his face and returning his features to the numbed neutrality of joylessness.
Yes, for these and similar moments alone, Tyszko has crafted something singular, something seen, out of material so overseen it is almost invisible.
But why call it Empire? Because in his strategy of reversal, Tyszko is teasing at something far larger, far more important than the witty unravelling of a sporting win. Indeed, why stop at that rewinding? Why not continue back - all the way back - to the world before England's global footprint had been impressed on the face of the beaten planet.
Empire is a song to its own absence, its erasure, a praise song back in time and place for a country that accepted its size, that did not make claims, that did not enslave, extract, despoil and desecrate; for a country that could be ambitious but which remained humble: a country, in short, that did not exist.
Think then of Empire as Tyszko's radical remake of Sliding Doors, where the focus is not on the future/s that might be, but on the past that never should have been. Onwards! Or rather, Backwards!
Gareth Evans 2019
From the artist:
Empire is a film in which we contend that the 1966 world cup was the high water mark of English culture,
a symbolic re-defeat of Nazi Germany and a brief imaginary return to the identity of empire.
1966 was a time of unparalleled optimism within western democracies, as the post war boom finally took hold and an overwhelmingly young demographic experienced a unique period of freedom leading to the social revolutions of the swinging sixties.
Perhaps shaken to its core, England lost sight of and nerve with its post war liberal experiment, and as the inevitable re-action of the establishment to both fight, absorb and commodify the signs, symbols and actuality of revolution took hold, the optimism was replaced with a quietly desperate search for an identity that was either lost or perhaps never really there.
The economic shocks from the oil producing nations shook the west and in reaction a complete failure of nerve allowed the reactionary forces of Margaret Thatcher to begin the neoliberal dismantling of the post war settlement, and as communal good was replaced by individual greed, shame became the shadow of our national identity.
2017 sees us as a nation happy to see children destitute, raped or drowned in the Mediterranean, rather than be given safety from wars for which we bare a large responsibility.
We demonize the poor and disadvantaged and reward the thieving financiers with wealth and status beyond use, yet we hide this loathing in political inactivity and a self hatred which has found a new force in the absurd, illiberal and self mutilating vote to leave one of the most successful collaborative international projects, for no perceivable gain, yet a certain crushing loss.
This film is a meditation on this collapse,
It is purposefully modernist, elitist and somewhat angry…