Institute for Conceptual Studies
LANGUAGE | The Wrong
Taking Down the Pole that Killed My Brother (2016)
Adam Mathieu

The performative work Taking Down the Pole that Killed My Brother is a video documented performance in which I allow myself to enter the narrative of my brother’s death. The scene contains a derelict set of buildings in the background, which make up a flea market. A chain link fence separates the flea market from the foreground of the frame. On the right side of the frame there is a large wooden telephone pole. I quickly enter the frame from the right side and pick up a rope that is tied to the telephone pole.

The telephone pole the same type of structure which my brother's car struck in a fatal accident. My goal is to take this pole down and release the burden of his death from my mind. I want to find peace and removing this pole is one way in which I can exact my revenge.

I begin to pull on the rope, attempting to take the pole down, committing myself to using all of my strength. As the video progresses I begin resorting to many variations in which I can pull as I search for nonexistent methods in which I could actually remove the pole.

At one point I tie the rope around my waste, lean back, and pull the slack with my arms. This uses all of my weight and strength that is possible and yet I still fail to make the pole budge. The only results I perceive are the creaks the wood makes as I exert pressure. At other times, I turn away from the pole, rope over my shoulder, and try to walk forward. Yet, the pole doesn't follow me and I fail once again.

I attempt for over ten minutes to make the pole move. I have rope burn on my waist, arms, and shoulders. My breathing is now composed of deep and exhausted inhales and exhales. I finally take one knee on the ground, facing away from the pole, I then give one last death rattle of an attempt. During this final attempt I turn quickly and pull as hard as I can, only to slip on the grass and fall on my back. I lay on the grass looking up at the sky, rope in hand, chest moving up and down quickly. The video fades to black. I have failed.