Craig Francis Power’s “Fuck You Rooms”
By Blair Brennan
“Their throat is an open tomb; With “their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips”; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” —Romans 3:13-14
Stills from the video “Fuck You Rooms”, 2009 By Craig Francis Power
Craig Francis Power’s video “Fuck You Rooms” was included in the recent Latitude 53 Exhibition, I Have This Dream: Turner Prize and Craig Francis Power from July 5 – August 4, 2012. In the video, a young man, possibly inebriated and certainly a Newfoundlander (by the sound of his accent), stands in the middle of the road (in the middle of the night?) yelling profanities at a major public art gallery. It is hilarious and simultaneously tragic to see Craig Francis Power so angry at a nonresponsive and faceless entity, The Rooms, in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The video is crudely filmed. The wobbly camera work is perhaps a metaphor for the tipsy protagonist. We concentrate on that sad and angry voice partly to avoid focusing on the grainy and shaky camera work that cuts between Power and The Rooms. Power continues to curse the art gallery for reasons unknown to us. Was he excluded from an important exhibition? Did they not purchase his work or did the chief curator of The Rooms snub Power some other way?
Power is, of course, a stand-in for all of us, shouting profanities at “the man” (or some version of the man). It is important to have a “plan to stick it to the man” but, in lieu of that, we’ll just stand in the street swearing especially if we’re high or drunk. How many times have I wanted to soberly stand and yell “you fucking idiots!” in front of the Art Gallery of Alberta, the provincial legislative buildings, Canada Place, The Edmonton Journal, a local Cineplex, my TV set or that guy’s house? “The man” can take many forms. In his anger, Powers spews curses. That is, he uses “unsuitable” language and he repeatedly casts a magic spell against his enemy. This is perhaps the origin of cursing and an explanation of why this language is deemed inappropriate. “Fuck You Rooms!” These are potent words in many ways.
Across from the video, Power exhibits some jokey hooked rugs. In these works, Power’s crude punk DIY aesthetic smacks head first into quaint traditional island craft. The work’s strength is often a successful synthesis of uncomplicated images and materials and simple, one-liner yobbo humor (Ha! Ha! The yellow yarn is piss!). There is a great image of a mummer — more Philip Guston than David Blackwood, which is another nice boot to the head of Newfie tourist art. The video is so powerful that I keep turning around to see it again or I let the sound of Power’s swearing fill my ears while I look at the hooked rug hangings. The language is always there with you, as ubiquitous as profanity seems in contemporary life. There are many reasons for this but Power’s video forcefully suggests that we are as full of rage as we could possibly be. It is spilling over, out of our mouths and into the streets. The book of Romans is not generally considered a book of bible prophecy (well, no more than any other part of the bible). It seems however, that as individuals and as a society our mouths have become “full of cursing and bitterness”.
“Does ‘Fuck you!’ sound simple enough?” Kim Gordon growls in Sonic Youth’s “The Sprawl”. “I don’t fuck much with the past but I fuck plenty with the future” rumbles Patti Smith in “Babelogue”. I don’t mean to rationalize the language or suggest that punk (and later rap and hip hop) entirely normalized profanity but there is a big fat “FUCK YOU!” in much of the music that I love—because, if you couldn’t manifest that anger in your person, you could at least have it in your music (or on your T-shirt). Analyzing (sometimes over-analyzing) Patti Smith’s album “Horses” Philip Shaw suggests that Smith “regard(ed) art and music as “the new answers for religion,” providing a forum in which even blasphemy could serve as a form of religious inquiry.”1 This seems overly academicized but I get the point and I agree. In contemporary music, art and life, blasphemy can certainly be a form of religious inquiry and, as such, it invades all forms of introspection and examination.
“The fucking clocks are fucking wrong/ the fucking days are fucking long/it fucking gets you fucking down” English performance poet John Cooper Clark observes in “Evidently Chicken Town”2. If Cooper Clark’s brilliant analysis of contemporary life speaks to you and William Wordsworth does not (or no longer does) then Power probably has something to say to you. If you’ve ever had a problem with your parents, teachers, boss, coworkers, neighbors, John Law, judges, lawyers, parole officers, other artists, curators or the galleries where they work, then Craig Francis Power has a suggestion regarding assertiveness training.
“Seagull with Garbage”, “Mummer”, and “Fun” installed at Latitude 53
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