But those who tell us they protect us from death, how do they always let it hover over our head?

TEXT BY Anne Lu

Juan Genovés, El Abrazo (The Embrace), 1976.
Courtesy Reina Sofia Museum ©

Thus came the spring.

The drop-curtains opened. The television presenters at their marks. The heads of government with their scientific advisors at their round tables. The news editors writing; the presses printing; and the businessmen with their telephones stuck on their ears shouting across, while drops of sweat slowly fell from their worried brows. From the north to the south and from the east to the west, day by day, hour after hour, all were fervently watching the latest developments; with some taking decisions and others imposing new restrictions to bring down our new invisible enemy.

You are next, were saying the ruling classes, with the power of all the media they have at their disposal, without entertaining any doubt. Whatever we do, they were saying to us, however we do it, it is to protect you, to protect you from death!

You see the numbers? The numbers don’t lie!

And we stayed shut at our houses, the ones among us that have one, some working, others not, without seeing the flowers blossom, mourning our dead from afar without being able to kiss them or honour their memory, fearing that we may be next.

Thus our love for life and the fear of death become useful ware for those that want from us to take in exchange trust and submission.

But those who tell us they protect us from death, how do they always let it hover over our head?

Prometheus: Oh, it is easy for the one who stands outside the prison-wall of pain to exhort and teach the one who suffers. All you have said to me I always knew. Wrong? I accept the word. I willed, willed to be wrong! And helping humans I found trouble for myself. Yet I did not expect such punishment as this—to be assigned an uninhibited desert peak, fastened in mid-air to this crag and left to rot! 1

Nothing is left in our cities any longer. Since the sole thing that freely wanders about is the dust of a slowly dying old world and a silence that seems truly absurd.

It is from within this silence and dust, from the calm and deserted streets that have been walked on innumerable times, that countless images of history rebound to remind us that the hunger, the poverty, the wars, the diseases, the unemployment, the injustice, the immigration, the desolation and the isolation for thousands, millions and billions of people, we, we never wanted them.

We have been born and have died again and again and our governments have come and gone again and again, and almost always, whenever our resistance was not strong enough, they ignored the conditions of our lives, even more so than that of our deaths.

And we have toiled again and again, under miserable conditions, and we have lost our jobs again and again, looking for food on the streets and our health in the divine; we have traversed the abyss a thousand times and back, with our health destroyed and our soul without a body for it to be housed in.

Now, what is there for us to be afraid of?

Since the only true injustice on this earth is the injustice of the earth itself, barren through cold, barren through heat, rarely rendered bountiful by heat and cold acting gently together; then there’s no injustice in being for ever on the same patch of earth, subject to the same cold or to the same heat or to the two acting gently together, and every man or beast who can look another man or beast in the eye is his equal for they walk the same fine, flat line, the same level of latitude, are slaves to the same colds and the same heats, rich in the same way and poor in the same way; and the only borderline that truly exists is the one between he who buys and he who sells, and that is blurred, since both possess the want and the thing they want, both empty and at the same time served to the full, yet with no more of injustice than there is in being male or female among men or beasts. That’s why, for now, I borrow humility and lend you arrogance, so we can be told apart at this hour which is inescapably the same for you and for me. 2

Paddy Summerfield, The Holiday Pictures, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2019 ©

So smells the spring.

They all gather again around their round tables and look in awe out of the window the rubble that left behind their suicide; and they test their acting abilities because the negotiation that has to take place is tough work and demands great talent, and to this end all the laws assist.

They cry: it’s an ill wind, gentlemen. Yes, of course, it makes our kingdom stronger. Yes, yes! Long live suicide, long live barbarism! Go, prepare the contracts! Now at last we will do unhindered our business!

In our own plate there is not enough remaining to be consumed now. What will we do? Will we await for a miracle? Or the old world to take revenge against us once more and as we are watching our ruin we do nothing?

It is well known how beneficially people can be influenced by the conviction that they are poised on the threshold of a new age. At such a moment their environment appears to be still entirely unfinished, capable of the happiest improvements, full of dreamt-of and undreamt-of possibilities, like malleable raw material in their hands. They themselves feel as if they have awakened to a new day, rested, strong, resourceful. Old beliefs are dismissed as superstitions, what yesterday seemed a matter of course is today subject to fresh examination. We have been ruled, says mankind, but now we shall be the rulers……… Terrible is the disappointment when men discover, or think they discover, that they have fallen victims to an illusion, that the old is stronger than the new, that the ‘facts’ are against them and not for them, that their age – the new age – has not yet arrived. Then things are not merely as bad as before, but much worse because people have made immense sacrifices for their schemes and have lost everything; they have ventured and are now defeated; the old is taking its revenge on them. 3

Kuzma Petrov Vodkin, Still Life with a Herring, 1918 Oil on Canvas, State Russian Museum, St.Petersbourg ©

Our enemy is waiting for us. He wants to shake our hands, tenderly. He knows that if we make the deal a lot of good things will come out for him. But what is in it for us? We know the answer well because it is before and behind us. For not to look at the past ashamed for our inaction, for our silence before our greater destruction, but on the contrary to remember it as the instance when we took again our lives and our futures in our hands, when we rose together like a united force ready to sweep away all that is not its own dreams, we need not to obey, but to disagree, to stand heroically against our enemy.

We don’t want to be shut inside any more, safe, believing that this life is the only one possible and our only destiny. Enough with misery, disease, destruction, insecurity and desolation. Enough with carrying on our backs their crimes, their own history, their own world built with our own sweat and our own interminable toil.

We want to live and we to live well. We want to dream of and claim a world of our own and to walk along with our brothers and sisters forever. Now more than ever we must say no to their miserable future and fire up again with our hands and our loud songs the horizons, so that we make the earth tremble once more, from the beginning.

Anne Lu is an artist. Her works explore the aesthetic of the new through the demands of the working class for revolution and a new world.

  1. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound from Prometheus Bound and Other Plays, Translated by Philip Vellacott, Penguin Classics []
  2. Bernard-Marie Koltes, In the solitude of the cotton fields, translated by Jeffrey Wainwright, Metehuen Drama 2001[]
  3. Bertolt Brecht, Foreward of the play Life of Galileo, extract from Brecht Collected Plays: Five, Metehuen Drama translated by John Willett. []