Watching “House of Cards”, I was fascinated by the stunning aesthetics of the series. The scenes are clear and straightforwardly composed. A pictorial language of beauty emerges scene by scene, giving the topic of power an ambivalent sense. Can power be this beautiful, I asked myself?
The scenes work with pictures which are iconic. When Francis Underwood leans into the site of power, the presidential desk, at the end of season two, it triggers our collective memory. We have seen these pictures again and again in art history, film and photography and we react directly. The series plays with it and makes it fascinating, even if we can see the abyss and horror at the same time. Power takes on a beautiful face.
But the story of House of Cards isn’t that of a simple power play, rising level by level to a peak and where we can wait until justice is done and the world will be good again. Here, whispers create rumours and rumours fact. This is the subtle design of power and we are involved. As we watch the story, we see friendly interactions, ruthless plotting, the outsmarting of others, but we also see the weakness and desperation of the main characters which brings them closer to us. We are drawn into it when we see Francis and Claire struggling and coming back again. And even more when Francis turns his face to us, the audience, and explains the tactic he is using right now, in every single detail. That moment creates reality and makes us part of the story. We are left with the question whether this might be even closer to the actual situation than we think it is.
Is human interaction just a question of planning and plotting – a question Shakespeare was asking five hundred years ago. What whispers will lead to power?
The art project “Whispers of Power” deals with these questions. I am interested to see how images combined with words create tension and ambiguity. Alongside a selection of film stills, turned into chalkboard drawings, the story of power in all dimensions will be told. Beside the iconic images, I am asking: what are the iconic words we carry in our collective consciousness? Those words will complete the artworks, tingeing the story of power with uncertainty and thus offering a metaphor for life: we can’t plan too much, it is rather that we move from moment to moment and respond to what we have to achieve.
"Whispers of Power" is a new collaborative project by Jörg Reckhenrich and Alex King of the Aesthetics for Birds blog.
Reckhenrich works as an artist, professor at business schools, consultant working with companies, and as author. The centre of his work is his studio in Berlin. From there he develops projects and programs that help people in companies and business schools to understand how to think and embody creativity better. Find out more about Jörg at http://www.reckhenrich.com
King is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Buffalo. She runs the philosophy blog Aesthetics for Birds, which aims to bring philosophers working on aesthetics and philosophy of art together with artists and the artworld. Find out more about Alex at http://www.philosopher-king.com