“Central to modern expectations, and modern ethical feeling, is the conviction that war is an aberration, if an unstoppable one. This, of course, is not the way war has been regarded through history. War has been the norm and peace the exception….The practice of representing atrocious suffering as something to be deplored, and, if possible, stopped enters the history of images with a specific subject: the sufferings endured by a civilian population at the hands of a victorious army on the rampage.”
Susan Sontag ‘Regarding The Pain Of Others’
For the past two years, I’ve been working towards a one-person show in New York for October 2004. Entitled ‘BOOTY’, it is a response to Bush’s colonialist venture in Iraq within the context of the horrors of all war and its universal and site-specific consequences. The installation will include a suite of large-scale patinated cast bronze jewellery based on Mesopotamian masterpieces shown in the ‘Art of The First Cities’ survey at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the summer of 2002. I am using the loss of cultural artefacts as metaphors for the loss of life and the rape of a civilization.
The centrepiece of the show is a 15’ long cast bronze pendant necklace consisting of three strands of beads with six charms, respectively: four symbols of architectural destruction (The Tower of Babel, The World Trade Centre Towers, a Baghdad mosque and a statue of Saddam Hussein) and two famous artefacts recently looted (a classic urn and a bust of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal). It is surrounded by a 6’ high pair of suspended bronze earrings based on Mesopotamian mythological creatures morphed into a modern gasmask, a trio of 1’ round bronze signet rings with cast glass low-relief portrait heads of bin Laden, Bush and Hussein and a 4’ high gauntlet-like cuff bracelet made of 18 life-size human skulls and 22 phalluses in cast aluminium, steel and leather resembling a female corset.
During my stay here at IMMA, I have been working on cast plaster reliefs to accompany the larger sculptures in my New York studio. In the form of steles, cuneiform tablets and signet seals, they are all types of ancient writing indicative of the development of pictorial language within ‘the cradle of civilization’. I am infusing these sculptures with post 9/11 narrative of contemporary American military imagery by using plastic children’s toys. I will continue to work on the surfaces and texture of the plaster to transform them into resembling stone relics, the kinds of which have been recently looted from archaeological sites in Iraq.
I hope the research I do here in Ireland for future work will be of a lighter note.