There’s been so much talk about statues lately – what they stand for, who put them up and what to do about them – maybe it was something in the ether but I know of ten artists who have been grappling with this thorny subject since early summer, long before the trouble happened in Charlottesville, USA.
It began with James Hanley’s drawing: “poking fun at the pomposity of statues” (see below left). For his initial image for the Concerning the Other collaborative art project, he drew a statue looking up at a ceremonial fly-over by the air force. When he passed it on to other artists in the group, they responded to it by painting over it or adding to it in some way and then passing it on again – until it landed on the desk of Ben Readman.
Ben “knocked over” the statue and replaced it with a Pokémon Go character (see below right). He mused that more attention was being paid to these ridiculous virtual creatures than to the millions of actual people who were being forced to flee their homes because of the war in Syria.
But then, believe it or not, I decided to reconstruct James Hanley’s statue when my turn came and I had various reasons for doing so. I was thinking that, despite all our so-called “freedoms”, that pompous character – the captain of industry – is still controlling the situation. You can tear down his statue if you like but it is society that needs to change.
When I received the artwork, I printed it out and folded it into the shape of a jet fighter. How do Western powers and Western industries show their concern for the Other? Answer: they facilitate the sale of military equipment and warplanes to both sides! I rearranged all the various elements using Photoshop, trying to achieve a more balanced composition. (See the image at the top).
So I think we need a lot more measured discussion about what to do with these contentious statues. As I read recently on An Sionnach Fionn’s blog – It’s really about what is an appropriate symbol for a shared civic space.
And with Concerning the Other, we were trying to promote compassion, diversity and concern for minorities in these days of mounting racism and intolerance. We wanted to do something to try and bring healing to the situation.
The ‘statue’ prints are from one strand of the artworks created for the exhibition. Many other themes are explored as well, by the ten “Concerned” artists. All will be revealed at the opening on Sunday, September 10th at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.
I hope some day you will join us…