Saturday, February 14, 2015

tools of life

Art Installation Seen in a Dream

The installation is distributed around the edges of a large hall. Every 10 feet or so is a life-sized statue of a famous historical figure: Gandhi, Qaddafi, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Obama, Ghengis Khan, Jesus, Muhammed, Chairman Mao, Andy Warhol, etc. Each one is clothed in their single most famous and frequently depicted garb—these are famous figures not as they are (or were) but as they are famous.

In between each figure is a set of tools of life: the everyday trappings of some distinctive cultural time and place; the workaday tools, accoutrements, and furniture of some typical person fulfilling a standardized cultural role. Items include bits of furniture and representative features of domicile or workplace (a chair, a hearth, a doorframe, a countertop, a grass hut, an obelisk), clothing (an apron, clogs, hats, a pipe, jewelry, . . . ), and tools of work (a typewriter, a gun, musical instruments, a broom, . . . . ). Representative cultural roles range from a 1950's American housewife (a kitchen counter, baking tray, vacuum cleaner, duster, . . . ); a Papua New Guinea tribesman (penis sheath, spear, drum, ceremonial mask, . . . ); an Eskimo (igloo, mukluks, spear for ice fishing . . . ); a citizen of ancient Rome (toga, chariot, tile flooring, . . . ); etc.

The alternation between historical figure and tools of life is completely random.

Each life size historical figure is fully posable. Visitors to the installation are encouraged to move them and pose them amongst the tools of life: Ghengis can may be decked in 1950's housewife apron and posed in the act of vacuuming the living room, for instance; Gandhi arrayed in flight controller's chair with headset poised to speak into a microphone; Mao wearing a horned viking helmet, standing majestic at the prow of a longship.