Martijn Hendriks’ work explores the collapsing of certainty, contradiction, and the possibilities of not showing things. Working across different media and exploring new forms of appropriation, Hendriks is interested in negotiating visibility, of taking away essential elements from situations, in unsettling and reconsidering cultural icons. The interventions into images of his works are often simple changes that resonate with the visibility of images, like erasing, hiding, displacing, repeating, cropping, blowing up, and re-editing. He often works with found video and photographic material taken from popular contemporary media like films, news media and the Internet.
In his contribution to Los Angeles Works, Hendriks takes as his starting point the events that are now often referred to as the Los Angeles May Day mêlée. On 1 May 2007, a peaceful rally for immigration reform in Los Angeles’ famous MacArthur Park ended in disaster when the protestors were violently broken up by 600 heavily armed officers of the Los Angeles Police Department in riot gear. In an attempt to clear MacArthur Park and its surroundings of protesters, they shot with rubber bullets at close range, used tear gas and beat people with sticks. There were many casualties, including numerous members of the press, who were not allowed to film anymore. The LAPD’s actions led to great public controversy and one government official after another hurried to condemn the officers’ indiscriminate use of force. Most official readings of the events trace the LAPD’s actions to the provocations of a small group of protestors. These protestors were cited to have ‘taken over a street corner’ and to have thrown plastic bottles, sticks an oranges. LAPD chief William J. Bratton gave a press conference that same day, blaming the unfortunate events on ‘a command and control breakdown’ and promising to investigate whether there was any ‘inappropriate use of force.’ For anyone who watched the videos that soon began appearing on the Internet, it could seem as if what was really under attack here was the right to use and make images in public space. Although the Los Angeles May Day mêlée geographically took place in a public park, which had now become a contested place to be in, it also took place in the realm of images. As news reporters pointed out, some people waved upside down American flags. Others brought big dark sculptures on wheels that represented the United States as, respectively, a sinking Titanic and the Poseidon ship. Still others brought their own video cameras and filmed the gradually approaching lines of police. Signs were shown that declared President George W. Bush a liar. The presence of a large immigrant group of protestors in a historically famous park, showing their respective ethnic roots with national flags along with the American flag, was in itself a powerful image of immigrant confidence. The LAPD, in their turn, seemed to enact scenarios that were strangely familiar and scripted in their effort to install fear in the protestors. It was as if their takeover of the park was staged to displace the protestors’ images with theirs. Their riot gear functioned as menacing costumes. The officers moved forward in a kind of chorus line, 50 feet at a time. They struck poses and moved in blocks through the park, slowing down and speeding up together. It was possible to see the events as an unfolding of a series of enacted images and scenarios presenting competing fantasies, fears, references to other events, quotes, echoes, and narratives.