The Marxist Magicians film the Communist Manifesto, Simon Morse

Shoreditch Town Hall, The Caretakers Cottages.
May / June 2006.

Simon Morse created full-sized wooden versions of his Marxist Magician characters with the building becoming their temporary HQ. The story of their ill-fated campaign trailed through the building ending in the beer barrels in the basement.

Below is the text from the exhibition written by Simon Morse.

The Marxist Magicians are a calamitously cack-handed and argumentative fictional bunch of revolutionary conjurors. the Keystone Cops of communism. Their aim is to bring about the overthrow of capitalism through embarrassment.

Hired by companies as corporate entertainers for press conferences where losses are announced—on the understanding that a supposedly ‘straight’ performance will distract journalists from bad news—they foul up their tricks on purpose. The resulting opprobrium, they hope, will cause the target company to collapse. And they believe that if they can do the same for all companies then faith in the entire capitalist system will collapse, precipitating a communist revolution. The magicians are however alcoholics, and divert virtually all their booking fees into feeding their habit. As a result they are trapped perpetuating the very system they aim to bring down (see their blackboard and the ‘Twelve Steps to Communism’ poster in the exhibition for more).

This show finds the Magicians changing tack. They have decided to assault capitalism not as usual from above, but from below. Their aim is to shoot, edit and duplicate a DVD film version of The Communist Manifesto which will then be sold to the proletariat pirate video-style from sports bags on the streets of London.

This collegiate effort at proletarian agitation soon descends into showbiz arguments over billing and attempts to use the DVD to gain bookings in cushy Mediterranean venues during summer season.

Throughout the show the figure of Karl Marx appears in conversation with the Magicians. Is it really him, is he in a time warp, are they in a time warp, or is it all just a case of their drunken minds recasting his words to suit their needs?

The show has something to say about the possibilities of political change emanating, thanks to new technology, from the grass roots level. It also has something to say about how this exciting possibility is nevertheless subject to the old recurring elephants of power and authority, diversion and avarice, violence and corruption (indeed, viewers may find echoes of recent events in the conversations and objects on display).

A group of people start out with a vision; that vision becomes twisted into something quite different (and possibly harmful to those both outside and in); they and their leaders nevertheless maintain the illusion that the original vision still stands. This is not solely the preserve of politics, or even of the magic trick. It happens in all our lives. It is the central point of this show.