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.”