bill balaskas

The leadership has failed

The phrase embroidered on the sleeping masks composing the work originates from the last known words of Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most important revolutionaries of the 20th century. Luxemburg wrote in the evening of her murder, on 15 January 1919: “The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built […]”. Although Luxemburg’s text begins with the admission of failure, it reflects a strong belief in the ability to transform the world through the power of the masses – a rather optimistic view of the human condition. In contrast, the work remains confined on the level of acknowledgement, without alluding to any further step to be taken. Rather, as the object on which the phrase has been embroidered suggests, what follows the realization of failure is sleep – a sleep of political and social consciousness as indicated by the rest of Luxemburg’s text. Notably, this state of passivity should not be theorised independent of the individual forms of the sleeping masks, which are defined by their multiple colours. In his landmark book “The Society of the Spectacle” (1967), French philosopher Guy Debord argues that “spectacle is the guardian of sleep” (thesis 21). The multiple facades of the sleeping masks function, perhaps, as those “guardians”.

gestures of resistance

21-30 April 2017