Deconstruction

In the 1927 film Metropolis, Maria captivates the workers through libidinous behaviour and leads them in a destructive orgy until, fearing for their families, they turn against her. Bound and burning, unrepentant, she is revealed to be a robot, a doll, a false prophet manipulated by the ruling class. The true Maria defends her honour on the cathedral roof until rescued by the hero.

This corny myth could be used to signify the whole history of the 20th century and from any perspective.

My aim was to deconstruct the lino printmaking process to reflect the destruction of the robot. I experimented with sprinkling the block with a little finely crushed salt but this near completely prevented transfer of ink to the paper. I also worked into the paper with white conte crayon, which works well as a resist with watercolour, but this failed to inhibit printing of the water-based, but much thicker, printing pigment. So I resorted to cutting back into the lino, extensively removing the image, then rebuilding it in gorilla glue. Activated with water, this adhesive froths and expands before drying. I sliced it level with the lino leaving a minutely cratered printing surface. I cut back into this to restore some of the lines. I varied the inking and pressure to get different effects.

at a distance

In this linocut, based on a still from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, the heroine Maria is bringing children to witness the gardens of the rich. Maria is adored by the oppressed workers. The hero, in pursuit of love for Maria, descends into the hell inhabited by the workers and, though love, becomes the mediator between the propertied and the proletariat.

Fritz Lang’s film was criticised at the time for its naivety. Cutting the block, I listened to the audio version of China Mielville’s October, a fast paced narrative of the two revolutions, a decade before the film, that first forced the abdication of Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romonav, the “bovine” Emperor of All Russia, and then replaced the provisional government with that of the Bolsheviks. Through this, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, “Lenin”, having returned to Petrograd to acclaim, is now in hiding in Finland while the counter-revolutionary plot by General Kornilov is foiled by the city’s workers and soldiers. Lenin guides the revolution, demanding rule by the soviets (workers’ and soldiers’ committees), an end to economic injustice and purity of purpose. He rails that the Bolsheviks must support a bourgeoise revolution as a pre-condition to a proletarian one, but not collaborate with that bourgeoise government. He tacks and shifts his ground, fine tuning his writings in response to events, ever sensitive to the subtle twists in political mood, seeking the precise historical moment when to act decisively for a workers’ state. But in exile, he receives news late, writes always behind the times and his tardy essays are used selectively by others to justify their contrary actions. I am minded of that other spiritual guide to a revolution that eventually acquired an empire, Paul, on the road and in exile, working on hearsay and old news, writing letters to admonish his first century adherents and converts.