Rank and Breeding, video, 9 mins, colour, 2019
Rank and Breeding (video, 9 mins, 2019) mixes original video footage of London’s growing (breeding) corporate privatised housing ‘regeneration’ and shots from the 1963 film ‘The Servant’ starring James Fox. Sequences are re-mediated to show Fox’s character at boarding school rapidly acquiring the necessary sociopathic armour to survive his school days, thrive at Oxford and then slip effortlessly into a career at Savills’ exclusive property company which today advises the conservative government on (un)affordable housing. The story of decline is re-mediated so that we witness Fox becoming stronger and stronger - embodying the current 'old school' dis-socialism of the entitled establishment that continues to dominate our social and cultural life in the last thirty years.
The video features London’s ominous night sky – a constellation of construction site red lights and, by day, future exclusive visions displayed on perimeter hoardings – both signifiers of the new enclosures. The black and white footage of Fox contrasts with today’s (colour) new luxury living and reinforces the anachronistic current resurgence of the establishments’ dominating ‘dissocial’ agenda.
‘The Servant’ (written in 1948) could, perhaps, be viewed as a ruling class cautionary tale – to be wary of the postwar emergence of Working Class authority – perceived as threatening the ‘old order’. In Rank and Breeding this classist allegory is inverted to evoke the negative social impact of the elite British Boarding School system (today a billion pound industry) as a ‘factory setting’ that manufactures a generic man/boy, and woman/girl bred to extinguish her/his emotional development to become one of the colonial managers of political, cultural, economic and urban life. He/she is traditionally a stranger to him/herself and the unknown territory and people s/he seeks to control.