Save Me White Jesus!, Presentation, Digital Photography, 2021
Presented at MES 2021, University of Leeds, April 2021
After following the Capitol Hill riot (6th January, 2021) closely and examining imagery of the event, I observed that a key feature of this spectacle was an overt and potent performance of a hauntingly familiar yet strangely new white masculinity. Having raked through imagery, theory and critical discourse, I have begun to build a contextual framework around this area of interest.
This performed paper represents this early framework explored through practice; it feels appropriate to me because art can be an amorphous tool. The phenomena I observed appeared to shapeshift, swirl and reinvent itself when under attack or scrutiny. How can a phenomena like this be explained or explored?
This, therefore, is an amorphous tool for an amorphous problem. Below is selected text, images and slides from the performed paper.
Have A John McMeek, Digital Photograph, 2021
SAVE ME WHITE JESUS!
The incoherent contemporary spectre of the folkloric, alt-right masculine legend
Iranian cleric, Shahab Moradi, said Iran would struggle to hit back against the US by striking a parallel figure to Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani because the US has only “fictional” heroes.
“Think about it. Are we supposed to take out Spiderman and SpongeBob?” he said in a live interview of Iran’s IRIB Ofogh TV channel.
The incoherent legend of an appropriate, aspirational, all-conquering, white masculinity is perpetually born and reborn, leading the alt-right movement yet also perpetually chasing its meandering development, all whilst never really existing at all. A ghostly presence, sensed but not seen, pieced together via memes and chat rooms and backyard-brawl videos and marches and speeches and Championship Fights and Super Bowls and WWE and Rock and Roll and Captain America and President Trump and the army and Mark Wahlberg and Connor McGregor and the Proud Boys and commercials and your dead grandpa and the gym and real jobs and Westerns and prison documentaries and Die Hard and Facebook karate tutorials. The spectre of idealised, performative, ambient masculinity, capable of scaling the ‘natural order’ to sit atop a paleo-conservative hierarchy, itself set within an increasingly complex and fiercely defended fantasia, haunts the browsing history of the west. He’s gone before his essence can be captured but his myth continually shapeshifts and builds. As a god he is a work in progress; his adherents cosplaying their personal interpretations, an act which doubles as both praise, in his image, but also as a claim to actually be him, themselves, if just for a moment. The Capitol Hill riot was as much protest as it was a mass audition; individual contestants making their claim to represent and embody the spectre of uber-masculine spectacle. A father. A son. A holy ghost.
He’s there somewhere. He’s everywhere. UFC. Presidential Election. Arm wrestling. The World Series. National Anthem. Touchdown. Championship ring. Born to lead. Protein Shakes. Owning the Libs. Overtake. Alpha male. Assault Rifles. Camo gear. Hunting knives. Feel alive. Gasoline. Keep em’ keen. American Dream. Bicep curls. T-level test. Hair on your chest. Chest press. National press. Scarface. Save face. Face to face. Take your place. Civic duty. Civil Liberty. Civil Unrest. Civil War. Capitol Hill. King of the Hill. King of The Spectacle.
The Spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.