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Die Mütze – 2023

Oil on canvas. H122 x W90 cm

The camp orchestra’s cellist practices.

Personal survival in a Death Camp was imperative and the ability to play a musical instrument meant a reprieve from selection for the gas chamber. However, this came at a huge cost. The Concentration Camp (KZ or KL) orchestra was forced to perform for the transports – as they arrived from all over occupied Europe. The intention of providing live music was to keep the new arrivals calm and lull them into believing there was a semblance of normality in the camp, thereby facilitating SS selections for immediate murder in the gas chamber or, for prolonged torture via a tenuous life as slave labor.

Members of the orchestra were also inmates and suffered similar privation to others. The emaciated cellist (gender not clearly defined) symbolically intensifies the collective inmates’ suffering.

The feet are large, filthy and grotesque while the hands, being the conduit for the delicate sounds – are refined instruments in their own right.

The recognizable camp uniform hat (Die Mütze) hangs on a peg or nail on the wall of the barrack (Kaserne).

(My painting was inspired by the narrative of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch – the cellist and survivor of Auschwitz)

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Oil on canvas. H121.3 x W182.3 cm.

A dystopian orchestration set against the backdrop of Mussolini’s Italy. Mussolini’s fascism began 100 years ago in 1922 and lasted over two decades until his ignominious end in 1945. I have included the symbolic period trappings and in addition have fused multiple contemporary parallels.

UNSEE THIS draws attention to the effectiveness of Edward Bernays’ ideas applied in the execrable and insidious psychological manipulation of the advertising world.

Layered commentaries on wide ranging social issues of importance facing us today are referenced.

Our capitalist over-indulgence is exemplified in artist Rudolf Bauer’s Duisenburg – owned by the Guggenheim Museum. Looking on is art critic Waldemar Januszczak while inscribed on the ground is the Russian title (HP) of Ilya Ehrenburg’s The Life of the automobile. Kambaku – 1930-85 (great tusker) was one of the ‘magnificent seven’ elephants murdered by poachers for his ivory tusks in 1985.

The nuns giving the fascist salute address the Vatican’s complicity and total accommodation with totalitarian rule. The appropriation of Banksy’s ubiquitous rodent – in profusion, forms a ratline – the escape route via the Vatican for wanted Nazi war criminals in post-war Europe.

Placed compositionally central is Kari Lake – a contemporary Trumpian Q Anon disciple – standing precariously on the skin of a big bass drum in her high heels and oversized red Maga cap. An alternative witch’s hat is provided on an adjacent plinth.

Sadly, Hannah Arendt’s seminal Rise of Totalitarianism has been cast down a vortex or maelstrom formed by discarded books – now relics of a past time when authenticated knowledge was valued. The downward focus is on the conflagration of damnation as the end trajectory.

The orthogonals of the overhead electric energy source above the tram offers an abstract alternative of unseen power.

The precariously positioned tram hovering on the precipice features Felix the Cat – a Cerberus-like comic book guardian of the (imminent) underworld, for the unsuspecting (rather cute white dog) passengers. The tracks do, however, terminate at the keyboard and this offers a radical alternative to oblivion.

Jon Batiste the keyboard player with his head mounted as a Salome-ish trophy provides (a silent) – but only redemptive route – via a truly Utopian ephemeral cultural experiential performance. The hovering microphone doubles as a wrecking ball, poised to hit the front window of the (driverless) tram.
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Pot Luck: The Life of the Automobile – 2022.

Oil on canvas. H94 x W122 cm

Painting Inspired by Ilya Ehrenburg’s salient 1929 book “The life of the Automobile”. This understated masterpiece of writing is as relevant today as when it was conceived almost 100 years ago.

Pot hole dodging on Australian roads during the protracted La Niña is a game akin to dicing with death. An informal public response to this proliferation of road deterioration is to demarcate potholes with a (police-like) murder scene outline in white paint on the black bitumen surface. Here, as a sop to video artist Shaun Gladwell, the symbolic fatality is a skateboarder depicted in receding perspective.

The central figure is surrounded by a car tyre surmounted with Buffalo horns. This is a reference to Bull Bars often attached to the front of rural vehicles by drivers – to literally fend-off the danger to themselves of fatal accidents when wild animals are hit whilst travelling.

Colliding with and killing wildlife on Australian rural roads is a commonplace occurrence. Observing or causing roadkill is part of the Australian country way of life. It is often joked about and even celebrated by ‘truckies’ (large truck drivers) who often adorn the outside of their driving doors with painted symbols of their score of kills – hence the patterned wallpaper of kangaroos, echidnas and wedge tailed eagles – (Eagles are generally only hit when they are feeding off prior killed animals themselves). Notching-up kills was common practice particularly during WWII, when pilots of both sides attached painted decals of their adversaries just below their cockpits denoting the number of enemy planes shot down – which tallied-up towards them being designated as aces and treated as heroes.

Truck drivers, particularly in remote areas, often boast about going out of their way to kill animals on our roads.

There is nothing to celebrate in deliberately murdering fauna.

ps. In Broken Hill NSW there is such a proliferation of roadkill (usually caused every night by large trucks) that the City Council employs someone to pick up and clear the roads daily. If left to rot, the bodies strewn across the roads are  perceived to cause distress to tourists – who are bussed-in to experience the City of The Arts from all across the country. The carcasses of the roadkill are then unceremoniously dumped in the ‘meathole’ at the City Tip.


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The Stakes Couldn’t be Higher – 2020


Mixed media sculpture – fibreglass moulded head, car tyre, buffalo horns, MAGA baseball cap, sunglasses with attached southern rebel flag pins, wind-up metal key, a length of rope and a wooden stool. H190 x W107 x D36 cm

Photographs by Vince Lovecchio

The accompanying text is an extract from Chapter 13 of an as-yet-unpublished illustrated memoir I have written:

As I had created an artwork around the 1992 USA election (https://victorgordon.com/art/lick-bush-in-92-1992/), it is useful to make the comparison to my revisiting of this leitmotif. The current threat to the American constitution and the degeneration of the rule of law in the USA over the last four years – demanded an artist’s response. One way or another, the November 2020 elections in the USA will affect the entire world. Australia, as the quasi 51st State of the USA, is directly impacted (eg. by blindly following the USA’s lead on addressing or ignoring climate change/global warming).

Unlike the lighthearted parody in my earlier 1992 USA election painting, I felt compelled to respond aesthetically to this election – in a politically loaded sculpture – that directly addresses the current fascist threat in the USA. More akin to the gravitas I accorded my anti-Apartheid art of the 80’s and 90’s, it specifically recalls the not-too-distant history of the white mob lynching of black Americans in the South – but in a stark racial role reversal.

Sporting typical symbolic paraphernalia – a make-america-great-again baseball cap and fashionable rebel flag pins (on the temples of his dark white-framed glasses), this clean-cut young white man – identifies himself as a GOP Trump supporter. The pair of buffalo horns mounted on the car tyre recall the roughneck frontier cowboy spirit of the Southwest. But, isolated from the herd, this individual’s life is clearly threatened – he is now the lone objectified target – the potential violent end-trajectory of an inverted bigotry. His head is positioned within the circle of the car tyre (reminiscent of necklacing in Apartheid South Africa). A conveniently knotted and ready-to-go noose is positioned around his neck, which forms a secondary circle – and a sturdy stool is provided. Circumstances appear very differently when the shoe is on the other foot – and this ‘mirroring’ gives cause for deep inner-reflection.

Adorned with real buffalo horns, the elephant in the room – is the rise in demand for a national return to the imposition of the death penalty.

On the reverse of the black tyre a warning has been lovingly written in white – indicating the dire consequences of the imminent election – “we will all remember the 3rd of November.”

The key to the work is just that – a wind-up key – inserted into the back of the scarified [red]neck’s white head.


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