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.

Jörg Reckhenrich
  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.15 Terror

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    “We do not fear terror. We are the terror.”

    The house of Claire and Frank Underwood appears to collapse, and then they utter these words.

    This climactic scene that ends the show’s fourth season, and we are left afraid and uncertain.

    A timely message given that, in today’s political climate, we are also left wondering whether there is anything past fear and uncertainty.

    Selected Quote:

    “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”

    – Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.14 Show and Tell

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    Innocent waves to the crowd turn into something more ominous in this week’s drawing.

    After more fierce fighting, the Underwoods are back on stage again. They have vowed to fight for the presidency with Frank as President and Claire as VP, a teaming previously unthinkable.

    Have the rules changed? Have their cards?

    Selected Quote:

    "All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players"

    – Shakespeare, As You Like It

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.13 Opponent

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    Every hero needs a villain. Viktor Petrov is the gray, cold, Russian counterpart to Frank Underwood.

    The confrontation shown here, with Viktor’s face on the big screen, triggers an instinctive fear and impulse to overcome. In this moment we identify with Frank.

    The moral line that usually separates us from him evaporates, and we only want to see Viktor fail.

    Selected Quote:

    “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

    – Animal Farm, George Orwell

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.12 Opposite

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    Is there ever more distance between two intimates than when they are sitting on opposite sides of a bargaining table?

    The discomfort between Frank Underwood and his wife Claire has reached its climax. Their once close relationship has become a mere formality, driven by pure protocol and personal power play.

    The vertical line down the center of the image divides and separates each into their own space. Is this the end for them?

    Selected Quote:

    MACBETH: Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
    Which must be acted ere they may be scann’d.

    LADY MACBETH: You lack the season of all natures, sleep.

    – Shakespeare, Macbeth

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.11 Loneliness

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    The quietest moment in the story is a poetic one.

    Separated from his wife Claire, Frank Underwood faces true loneliness.

    In this image, the darkness threateningly creeps up from behind him, as his sole companion and most faithful ally has disappeared.

    Selected Quote:

    “You can only lose something that you have. You cannot lose something that you are.”

    - Jim Morrison

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.10 Separation

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    In this scene, we see the vast space between Frank Underwood and his wife Claire.

    Their marriage-cum-political alliance is at its breaking point. Is there, for either of them, any difference between self-preservation, strategic power play, and true courage?

    Selected Quote:

    "Together we can build entire empires
    If we only have the courage to be vulnerable, gentle and honest"

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.9 Halo

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    The US Presidency, depicted here in its symbolism and drama.

    After a frustrating negotiation with the Russian president, Frank Underwood takes a stand.

    In this image, we are invited to see Frank as a kind of savior. Or is it just the American people who are invited to do so, while we viewers see through the smoke and mirrors to his true character?

    Selected Quote:

    “I will be satisfied. Deny me this,
    And an eternal curse fall on you! Let me know.”

    – Shakespeare, Macbeth

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.8 Surfboard

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    Newly minted president Frank Underwood faces international matters.

    This image depicts his literal standoff with the Russian president, Viktor Petrov.

    A surfboard stands erect between them, while a funny moment takes a dark turn.

    oes this symbol suggest – or poke fun at – the idea that politics is a man’s world?

    Selected Quote:

    “Everybody’s gone surfin’…
    Surfin’ U.S.A.”

    – Beach Boys, Surfin USA

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.7 The Conference

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    After fighting his way to the presidency, Frank Underwood moves forward with his plans.

    magining a cooperative and supportive administration, he is surprised to find that they see him as a stepping stone, an intermediate solution until their next, real candidate can be elected and installed.

    How can he win them, and the American people, over?

    Selected Quote:

    “To be a leader
    To be a liar
    To be honest
    One needs the courage to be
    In the limelight”

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.6 Door

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    Now the door opens to the most admired room of power, the oval office.

    Francis dream becomes true.

    Supported by Claire, he takes the last step on its his own. The time stands still and roles are shifting.

    Selected Quote:

    “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”

    – William Blake

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.5 Competitor

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    Francis is meeting his rival, down a cellar, while a Puccini opera is played on stage upstairs.

    Two shadows at the end of the tunnel, after month of heavy intrigues and fierce positioning, Francis takes it all and the door towards the oval office becomes more open.

    Selected Quote:

    “Nobody’s very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.”

    – Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.4 Bathroom

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    An amazing image, embodying the delicate and complex relationship between Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright).

    Frank learns that a general, whom he is now to honor at a public ceremony, raped his wife when the two attended college together.

    The viewpoint, we take as observers, is extraordinary. After we witness him commit a murder to keep his own secrets, we are reminded of Frank’s genuine loyalty, compassion, and humanity.

    Or is it merely a double standard?

    Selected Quote:

    “Stronger than lover’s love is lover’s hate.
    Incurable, in each, the wounds they make.”

    – Medea, Euripides

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.3 Tunnel

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    Conspiracy at its best. An empty space, literally underground. The lines of Harry Weese’s famous subway stations pull Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) together, while the pillar reveals the tenseness and separation between them. We are pulled so close in this frame that we experience ourselves as a third participant and conspirator.

    Selected Quote:

    “Arms may be warmer than a coat

    Emptiness is too heavy to carry alone

    Our skin is the limit within which we live”

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.2 Washington

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    The moment it all begins.

    Here, Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) understands that his bid for Secretary of State, a crucial step on his path to an eventual Presidency, has failed.

    He is trapped in the corner of the room, which you can see behind his back. At the left, two lamps cast a warm light on a portrait of George Washington, whose footsteps he’ll now be unable to follow.

    It’s a surprisingly delicate portrayal of a violent breaking point.

    Selected Quote:

    “I long to fly
    but wings won’t grow till you can carry your own weight”

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  • 11/02/1979 12:00

    No.1 Knock on Wood

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    The high peak, end of season two.

    Now, Francis is President. Standing in the area of power, behind the presidential desk, he knocks two times at the table.

    Then it’s all black.

    Selected Quote:

    “Moral people are the most revengeful of mankind: they employ their morality as the best and most subtle weapon of vengeance.”

    ―Lev Shestov, “All Things are Possible” (1905)

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"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