Silent Witness: Privileged Authority
Drypoint on 240gsm Arches etching paper, 2009, Ed 25. by Chris Diedericks
In government, authority is often used interchangeably with the term "power". However, their meanings differ: while "power" is defined as 'the ability to influence somebody to do something that (s) he could not have done’, "authority" refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power. For example, whilst a mob has the power to punish a criminal, for example by lynching, people who believe in the rule of law consider that only a court of law to has the authority to order capital punishment.
Since the emergence of the social sciences, authority has been a subject of research in a variety of empirical settings; the family (parental authority), small groups (informal authority of leadership), intermediate organisations, such as schools, churches, armies, industries and bureaucracies (organisational and bureaucratic authorities) and society-wide or inclusive organisations, ranging from the most primitive tribal society to the modern nation-state and intermediate organisation (political authority).
According to Craig Owens Western civilization is suffering from ‘a crisis of cultural authority, specifically the authority vested in Western European culture and its institutions’.
My work Silent Witness: Privileged Authority is a critique on the contemporary Corporation, fuelled by profit at all cost. The idea for this work was born after I have seen the documentary film The Corporation.
The Corporation is a 2003 Canadian documentary film written by Joel Bakan, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary is critical of the modern-day corporation, considering it as a class of person and evaluating its behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person. The film is in vignettes examining and criticising corporate business practices, to establish parallels, between corporate legal misbehaviour (malfeasance) and the DSM-IV's symptoms of psychopathy, i.e. callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.
Silent Witness: Privileged Authority is the darkest work in the Cold Sweat graphic series. The work aims to question and expose symptoms of psychopathy, as also investigated in the film The Corporation. A metatext in the work is the visual investigation of the traditional and contemporary position of women in the world of business and more specifically, the Corporation.