Tony Cokes

Tony Cokes, Black Celebration, 1988, courtesy Tony Cokes; Greene Naftali Gallery, New York; EAI, New York

A question raised by the works of Tony Cokes is how our modes of political and civic articulation are guided and shaped by media image circulation as defining the horizon of emancipatory struggles. His videos predominantly show texts scrolling over a repeating image or a monochromatic background with pop music as a temporal vehicle. By decoupling the word from the image, Cokes proposes that a deconstruction of media is fundamental to emancipatory politics. He also alternates the voice with pop/rock music. This practice can be traced back to his groundbreaking Black Celebration (1988), which together with Mikrohaus, or the black atlantic? (2006–8), forms the centerpieces of Coke’s clubhouse presentation for the 10th Berlin Biennale, featuring a total of eleven works.

Black Celebration includes newsreel footage from rebellions in Watts, Boston, Newark, and Detroit in August 1965, and the news voice-over is replaced with music by the Canadian industrial band Skinny Puppy. Using texts from sources as varied as Morrissey, Martin L. Gore, Barbara Kruger, and the Situationist International, Cokes explains that the intent of the piece was “to introduce a reading that will contradict received ideas which characterize these riots as criminal or irrational.”

—Sohrab Mohebbi

  • ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics


Black Celebration, 1988
Video, b/w, sound, 17′17″, 2010
Video, color, silent, 11′45″, 2010
Video, color, silent, 11′34″

DT.sketch.01.7 (Evil.66.1), 2016
Video, color, sound, 7′43′′

Evil.11: The Katrina Debacle, 2010
Video, color, sound, 9′

Evil.13: The Triumph of Evil, 2010
Video, color, sound, 9′49″

Evil.13: Der Triumph des Bösen, 2010
Video, color, sound, 9′49″

Evil.16: Torture Musik, 2011
Video, color, sound, 17′

Evil.27: Selma, 2011
Video, color, sound, 9′

Evil.35: Carlin/Owners, 2012
Video, color, sound, 7′56′′

Evil.48: (, 2012
Video, color, sound, 5′32′′

Mikrohaus, or the black atlantic?, 2006–08
Video, b/w, sound, 31′07″

o.n.h.d., 2010
Video, color, silent, 27′, 2010
Video, color, silent, 26′30′′

All works courtesy Tony Cokes; Greene Naftali, New York; Electronic Arts Intermix, New York