Roger Willems and Dongyoung Lee
Translations and proofreading by
Lorenzo Benedetti, Marien van der Heijden, Dennis Bos, Adriaan van Veldhuizen, Zasha Colah, Jelle Bouwhuis, Pier Giuseppe Monateri, Yosuke Amemiya 雨宮 庸介, Callum May, Steven van Dissel, Isobel Williams, James E K Parker, Aaron Schuster, Daniel Stanford, Hugh Edmeades
Decision-making has always influenced everyday life and today, more than ever, it’s present within selections, award ceremonies, public speeches, auctions, judgments and consensus making. As if pointing out the elephant in the room, this publication is the first artist’s book focusing entirely on the object of decision-making and the visual representation of authority par excellence: the gavel. Examined through the lens of a peculiar group of gavels owned by the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam, ones that had belonged to revolutionary and emancipatory movements from the 19th century up to recent times, these objects are questioned through their silence and their shifting symbolic meanings. ‘The President’s Hammers’ investigates these modern sceptres of power both from an artistic point of view – following artist Diego Tonus towards the process of substituting the IISH’s original gavels with their replicas, in the attempt to show them for the first time to the public as a collection outside of the Archive – and from their anthropological, psychoanalytical and socio-political perspectives in dialogue with selected authors, contributing to repositioning the gavel within today’s cultural landscape. In this Catalogue Raisonnè, gavels are observed as tools of power able to canalise a message and that, articulating a language of their own, are used as tools for creation or destruction within a specific discourse. The unknown histories and derivations of IISH’s silent gavels open a space of artistic investigation that allows Diego Tonus, in dialogue with the other contributors, to question the paradoxical implications of the decision-making ‘hammer’ in a broad sense and the fetishist attraction towards these objects, the history of which is quite blurred and ranges from secret societies to recent Parliaments.
This book was supported by: Mondriaan Fonds Amsterdam and AFK Amsterdam fonds voor kunst
The exhibitions of Processing Authorities were supported by: International Institute of Social History, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, WIELS Brussels, Furla Foundation