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Blackwhite by Thibaud Tchertchian

Press Release

From 2014 May 7th to June 7th at Rock Around Asia Art Gallery, Novotel, Suvarnabhumi airport

To kick off a new cycle of exhibits at Novotel hotel at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, the gallery Rock Around Asia has invited the French artist Thibaud Tchertchian to exhibit paintings from his series entitled “Blackwhite”. The exhibit will take place in the lobby from May 7th to June 7th, 2014. This series features paint and spray-paint on canvas as a free interpretation of the George Orwell’s predictive novel, 1984.

Published in 1949, this science fiction novel presents a futuristic world where society is crushed under the authority of a totalitarian government that controls the media and forbids free expression. The book highlights the dangers of a weakening vocabulary and ideas leading to single thought.

Born in 1983, Thibaud Tchertchian became a painter from being a graffiti artist. After exhibiting his first black-and-white series in Paris, entitled “Step One”, the artists has recently moved to Bangkok to paint live portraits against a background of a timeless, blurry city – just like their situation and future.

The title “Blackwhite” refers to the brainwashing carried out against dissidents in the novel, trying to make them accept a contradictory reality, that 2 and 2 make 5. “Blackwhite” is an invitation to view a reality while keeping a critical distance. This series was initiated in Thailand and will go on to other countries.

Blackwhite concept

This word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.” — George Orwell, 1984.

The word is an example of Newspeak and doublethink. It represents the active process of rewriting the past — a vital aspect of the Party’s control over the present. The ability to blindly believe anything, regardless of its absurdity, can have different causes: respect for authority, fear, indoctrination, even critical laziness or gullibility.

Orwell’s Blackwhite refers only to that caused by fear, indoctrination or repression of one’s individual critical thinking («to know black is white»), rather than caused by laziness or gullibility. A true Party member could automatically, and without thought, expunge any «incorrect» information and totally replace it with «true» information from the Party. If properly done, there is no memory or recovery of the «incorrect» information that could cause unhappiness to the Party member by committing thought crime.

Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as «thought crime. »

Newspeak is explained in chapters 4 and 5 of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and in an appendix to the book. The language follows, for the most part, the same grammatical rules as English, but has a much more limiting, and constantly shifting vocabulary. Any synonyms or antonyms, along with undesirable concepts are eradicated. The goal is for everyone to be speaking this language by the year 2050 (the story is set in the year 1984—hence the title). In the meantime, Oldspeak (current English) is still spoken among the Proles — the working-class citizens of Oceania.

Orwell was inspired to invent Newspeak by the constructed language Basic English, which he promoted from 1942 to 1944 before emphatically rejecting it in his essay «Politics and the English Language». In this paper he deplores the bad English of his day, citing dying metaphors, pretentious diction or rhetoric, and meaningless words, which he claimed to encourage unclear thought and reasoning. Towards the end of the essay, Orwell states: “I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words or constructions”.

Newspeak’s contracted forms, such as Ingsoc and Minitrue, are inspired by the Russian syllabic abbreviations used for concepts relating to the government and society of the USSR, such as politburo, Komintern, kolkhoz (collective farm) and Komsomol (Young Communists’ League), many of which found their way into the speech of Communists in other countries.

Artist’s vision

For this new serie, Thibaud Tchertchian began a gallery of portraits. He painted Thaï workers and protesters during early 2014 Bangkok Shutdown events that he included in an immaterial background of Bangkok city. By fading, he isolates his topics and interests himself of the question of the future of those people. The serie will continue in other countries. The title Blackwhite refers to the masterpiece of George Orwell, 1984.

Play with your rules. I play with mine. Tell your stories, I tell mine. I came here and I made people return to my circle. I made them work. I painted them. All differently. In that moment of course. I have made them frozen.
Doing a portrait is to look at the human being as an individual, because we find him/her beautiful and because we want to transcribe his/her emotions. But it is impossible. We cannot tell a dream without transforming it when we put it into words. We cannot open up a head, hoping to find an idea in it. To tell the truth, it is the “watcher” who projects their emotions just as I have mixed mine with it. All this forms the meaning of the work.

There are only workers from the middle or working classes, yet the subject is not politics, it is human. It does not defend a cause. It is not a journalistic observation. They are individuals in a group, in a series of portraits. They are in the moment, I am in the gesture. They do not think about changing the world but their lives. In this way they will perhaps change it.
They spray-painted because it is a popular instrument in line with my theme. This medium comes from the world of graffiti, which is introduced into the galleries via street art. I am part of this movement with a tinted photographic style of expressionism.
If the expression Blackwhite in the book symbolizes this depletion of the twisted mind into accepting conflicting realities as truth, the job I do in black and white can revive with complimentary opposites. From a rationally insoluble opposition as the concept of Blackwhite, a new awareness can be awoken through the power of ideas.

In the context of this series, I would like to propose, in the spirit of Newspeak, the concept of Croiredoute. To paint this series, I had to doubt and believe, like the ones I have captured from my camera.

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