A Total Spectacle, in partnership with RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design, welcomes Toronto-based architect and artist, Scott Sørli to give a talk on the political aesthetics of police kettling on May 18, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. (290 McDermot Avenue).
Rulers throughout history have gone to great lengths to communicate and maintain their status. Whether that ruler was a dictator, royalty, religious figure, or democratically elected government, displays of power to validate and reinforce control over the masses declared who to admire, what to believe, and how to behave. Preying on core instincts to create situations that appeared effortlessly natural and self-evident, these displays of power featured elements capable of seducing people into agreement, distracting them from unpleasant truths, and/or scaring them out of rebellion.
Almost 300 Montreal protestors (and one Anarchopanda) kettled by 24 police, March 22, 2013. Photo: Tim McSorley for Media Co-op.
A police kettle can be described as the activation of a police cordon into an encirclement. A wall (composed of: the bodies and minds of police; mobile inorganic material such as shields, truncheons, and Kevlar; and adjacent fixed urban infrastructures) constitutes the architectural enclosure of a police kettle. In contrast to a police cordon, which is designed to keep people out, a police kettle is designed to keep people in. Three formal characteristics of a police kettle are its relatively small size (up to a maximum of a thousand people contained, usually less than half that); its relatively long duration (a minimum of three hours, and up to thirteen and possibly even more); and its constant impermeability.
The phrase ‘police kettle’ comes from the German polizeikessel, which translates literally as ‘police cauldron’ (polizeikette, a closer homonym, translates as ‘police cordon’). The spatial and linguistic source descends from the specific military use of the term ‘encirclement’, which comes from kesselschlacht (literally, ‘cauldron battle’). The metaphor of an impermeable container whose contents are heated up over time by an external source is the precise analogy of a police kettle.
Fauna is introduced in spurts of attack dogs and police horses, while the durational component of kettling gives rise to atmospherics. The sun sets and it gets dark; temperatures fall and people get cold; it frequently rains and they get wet. Phenomenological tools are deployed by the police as well: tear gas and pepper spray are released; high volume sound is transmitted through bullhorns; hunger is created by the withholding of food; washroom breaks are not permitted; tactile sensations are delivered with truncheons. Other means of aesthetic transmission include: the design of police uniforms; the choice of black as the primary colour scheme; occasional back-lighting to increase drama, and so on.
These and other technologies are means of generation of affect. Over the time of the kettle, emotional states produced include confusion, anxiety, fear, and despair. As austerity unfolds, politics are rendered aesthetic.
Artist biography: In addition to holding a recent post-graduate level degree in design research from the University of Michigan, Scott Sørli has received professional degrees in engineering from the University of Waterloo (majoring in process control) and in architecture from the University of Toronto. His graduating thesis in architecture, Open Systems, was awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Medal. After working for a small residential architecture firm, Sørli initiated a design-research practice that operates across scales and among disciplines. He is also co-curator of convenience, a window gallery that provides an opening for art that engages, experiments, and takes risks with the architectural, urban, and civic realm. Current research explores potential agencies of wilding as bubbles of liberation fracking institutional stratifications. To read more about Sørli’s research on police kettling, please visit: http://www.scapegoatjournal.org/docs/03/03_Sorli_ShortHistoryOfKettling.pdf. For more information about convenience, please visit: http://conveniencegallery.com.
This talk presented at RAW: Gallery of Architecture & Design relates to A Total Spectacle, a mini spectacle about spectacle organized by Winnipeg-based independent curator, Milena Placentile, in collaboration with local, national, and international artists: Dayna Danger, Glen Johnson, Joe Johnson, Istvan Kantor, Praba Pilar, Scott Sørli, and Paul Wiersbinski. A Total Spectacle runs from May 18 – June 9 at Atomic Centre (167 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg) with a grand opening on May 17 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Admission to the exhibition and all related events, including this artist talk, is free of charge. For more information, please visit: http://www.atomiccentre.net.
A Total Spectacle has been made possible with thanks to generous financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts through a program formerly known as “Independent Critics and Curators in the Visual Arts Program”, which provided opportunities for creative and intellectual research and production initiated by curators working beyond conventional institutional frameworks. The curator and artists would also like to acknowledge the generous in-kind and promotional support of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Martha Street Studios / Manitoba Printmakers Association, Central Canadian Centre for Performance, and Edge Gallery.