The flag of the Bundschuh movement
The Bundschuh was a series of popular uprisings in the Rhine lands of the Holy Roman Empire in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It was a series of secret societies and conspiracies focussed around Joss Fritz, a peasant who took the millenarian phantasies of The Book of One Hundred Chapters and tried to make them into reality: ‘All authority was to be overthrown, all dues and taxes abolished, all ecclesiastical property distributed amongst the people; and all woods, waters and pastures were to become communal property.’ [Cohen p.234]
This movement fitted into a wider tradition of similar movements that periodically appeared throughout late medieval Europe (for example the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in south east England) but I have singled it out as it took it’s name from, and cohered around, a symbol. The bundschuh was a type of peasant shoe common in southern Germany, consisting of a wooden sole and leather upper that was bound round with puttees. The banner of the movement consisted of one of these sometimes, according to Cohen, incorporating the words ‘Nothing but God’s justice!’ and ‘Christ crucified with on one side a praying peasant, on the other the peasant clog’. The woodcut of a group of Bundschuh accosting a knight by Francesco Petrarca shows a banner consisting of just the shoe with its puttee curving down the fly like a scroll or a serpent.
Prior to this point the congregation of humble folk headed by a charismatic individual holding a banner of the crucifixion was relatively common place but this is the first instance that I have found of the investiture of symbolic power in a humble object by the uprising poor. I do not know why the shoe was taken as an example, perhaps it was its absolute humbleness – the symbol of the worker that cut across other divisions of labour, and an acknowledgement of the point of absolute destitution – to not to be able to afford shoes was to be truly wretched.
The following is a response to this project that was posted on my facebook:
MO: Continuous occupation isn’t so much catalyst as capturing and holding the gaze of mass media. The occupations happened to catch the coat tails of the zeitgiest of the Arab uprisings. Because this was so ‘news worthy’ the occupations here got more coverage.
JT: i am not sure if you are being critical of occupy for this or suggesting that this movement only took off because of the rhetoric that western leaders/media had been directing towards the arab leaders to listen to their populous. if it is the second i am inclined to agree with you, similar movements in greece and spain prior to the occupy wall street zeitgeist were squashed pretty quick. the continuous occupation question is at the heart of what i am interested in – hakim bey who theorised the temporary autonomous zone (if theorised is the right term) was very sceptical of the sort of reification that we have witnessed with the occupy sites in london as they struggle to deal with the problems of proto-statism and emergent power structures.
MO: Something like that…the actions/demands of the people involved with occupy will always struggle to kindle an emotional (certainly not rational) response from the replete middle classes or supine stragglers without harmonising with an already moving media vehicle
Do flags represent a state of unity or a state of separation? A statement of peace or war? Of ego or modesty, of simplicity, or complexity? Of vulnerability or strength? Do flags represent freedom or conformity, you or me? Do flags represent cynicism or altruism, centrifugal or centripetal ideologies, transparency or opacity? Of humanity or commodity? Of political or social, solidarity or enemies, corruption or equality, of isolation or embracement?
Unless one flag unites the entire world, and is then left open to the change for future species and ideologies, they will always represent separation of the world as a whole, whether there is unity or not under the situation of the flag. To design a flag is not always a sign of segregation though, with the clear capacity for unity of great causes from its followers. But is it necessary? Do we have to work alongside this ideology as to break it? Or do we passively state our disapproval of any represented group or ideology based along the critical line of humanity self-segregation? But is it not until the last person on the earth joins, and the flagpole remains empty, we will have real unity?
Only once everyone who flies under a flag’s symbol succumbs to a complete state of realization of communication for the purposes of equality, self-sustainability and creativity, will we see all flags demolished as a statement of complete unification tearing history to shreds.
So we place ourselves in the dilemma: to create for the hope of our goals or to stay static in fear of contradiction to our goals.
The flag of the Communist Gallery
This flag was devised in the King’s Tun pub in Kingston-upon-Thames on 9th April 2011 by a group of artists engaged on a collective project known as the Communist or Commonist Gallery (both names are used depending upon the context). The participants were keen to take on problematic of communist imagery and ideology – its association with totalitarianism and dictatorship – and provoke discussion on communal territory both within and outside of the arts. Discussion turned to a flag that could be flown over the gallery, this would naturally be The Red Flag but with what insignia?
All the ‘traditional’ communist symbols were mulled over and rejected by one or more of those involved, and the solid red flag was judged equally impossible owing to its universality. The solution that presented itself was to remove the symbol entirely and radically – to cut it out. The flag of the Communist Gallery is therefore a red flag with a circular hole in the centre, an echo of the flag flown by anti-government protesters during the Romanian revolution of 1989 where the populous cut the symbol of the regime out of the centre of their flags.
This was originally a pragmatic gesture of refusal and negation but it was appropriated by the Communist Gallery as a deliberate gesture – to create a space in the centre of communism where there is the expectation of ideological dogmatism.
Helping me out out on this iteration of the Temporary Autonomous Zone will be Henry Bradley, a Fine Art student from Wimbledon. Look out for him in the space at the Construction Gallery and posting on the blog.
Since I originally undertook this project in 2010 the political landscape around the concept of temporary autonomous zones has altered considerably, with actions across the Middle East proving that the continuous occupation of public space even in the face of hostility and violence can have a powerful effect. The way this has been taken on globally by the Occupy movement which, however you view it, has had a considerable impact on how we perceive the public spaces of our cities and discourses around who is allowed to control them and to what ends – sometimes the refusal to move is the most powerful action that we can undertake.
Therefore when the Construction Gallery asked me to revisit the Temporary Autonomous Zone for their ‘pop up’ gallery (whatever that might mean) I thought that it would be a good idea to do so.
This discussion will happen both on this blog and through the Construction Gallery’s space in Tooting, with the same aim as the previous incarnation in North London – to design a flag to be flown from the building for the duration of the project.
As an introduction to the project and the ideas behind it click on the tabs at the top of the page or select the General Ideas filter in the Categories sidebar.
The Market Estate Temporary Autonomous Zone is over.
Thanks to the Market Estate Team and Denisa Sengerova who sewed the flag
The Market Estate Temporary Autonomous Zone was declared today (1st March 2010) and will run until Sunday (7th March 2010)