1001 Dreams of Occupation: What’s In It For Me?
“Cliché is the ultimate expression…”
- Magnus Sigurdarson
It began in December of 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid marched to the provincial-capital building, soaked himself in paint thinner and lit himself on fire. His actions were a result of endless injustices inflicted upon him by the Police. Out of desperation, out of a lack of governmental support, Bouazizi resorted to protest. With a seemingly selfless declaration against discrimination, the 26-year old sparked a series of events that would result in the Tunisian Revolution, which consequently led to the democratization of the country.
In 2011, after a year that saw the uprising of masses across the globe, “The Protestor” was named TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Year”. In Cairo and Alexandria, in New York and San Francisco, in London and Athens, people took to the streets in opposition, undoubtedly influenced by one man’s actions a year prior. It is an action that dates back to the beginning of civilization, an expression of objection that is innate within all of us. Protest, or the act thereof, is a formula that can be summed up as simply as: dissatisfaction + desperation = a need for change.
But, what drives this need for change? When stripped to the core, WHAT WAS IN IT for Mohamed Bouazizi? What were his DREAMS, his intentions, when he made the decision to light that match? It is doubtful that his life's wishes were to one day be remembered for self-immolation? In fact, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to argue that he (Bouazizi) did not know what he hoped to accomplish, but knew that he had to make a change. Regardless of time and context, when something is awry, sometimes the only solution is simply to act. Herein lies the universal truth; protest is the life’s ultimate cliché. To act out of impulse, out of need, desperation and frustration, and without an agenda is to lose oneself and in doing so, inviting others to share in the innocence of dreams.
Magnus Sigurdarson’s “1001 Dreams of Occupation: What’s In It For Me?” explores the phenomena of protests, furthermore, the artists delves into the loss of identity that floats amongst these gatherings. Through a series of digital drawings, large-scale prints and sculptures, Sigurdarson continues his quest to identify with and invade “the other,” a discourse previously visited in such works as “Pretend I’m Not Here” and “Project Mass Media” both of which were developed in 2005 when the artist participated in the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC) residency and the Shanghai International Biennial of Urban Sculpture Exhibition (SIBUSE). At the time, he launched a quest to immerse himself in “a culture much richer and older than his own,” and lose himself as one more in the crowd, a task that proved challenging for a six-foot, blonde Icelandic man amidst a sea of Chinese people. “1001 Dreams of Occupation: What’s In It For Me?” also looks to the past in attempts to understand the present. By taking on the role of the protestor and isolating it, Sigurdarson magnifies the sense of helplessness and vulnerability inherent in the act of protest itself. The artist positions himself as the protestor, but instead of voicing his disdain he strips the act of all facades and unabashedly proclaims, “OCCUPY MY INNOCENCE”. Sigurdarson stands alone amidst the movie-like Opa-Locka City Hall, a direct reference to the Middle Eastern scenario where this modern-day version of historic protests began; he paces amidst the municipal grounds, he protests, he poses, he ponders…yet ultimately he is alone. The stark segregation of his act emphasizes a belief that he holds at the essence of his work, “Cliché is the ultimate expression.” Since Bouazizi’s unforgettable act, the media has been swamped with sensational images of herds of people “occupying,” portraying a sense of unity and camaraderie. Sigurdarson challenges this, ultimately presenting the viewer with the reality of the situation and questioning, “What are you getting out of this, really? Why are you here?”
Text by Carolina González