Via Rhetorica 2011
Mixed media: Wooden bench, barbed wire, woven leather thongs, cotton fabric and human hair
76 x 133 x 51.5 cm
This two tiered bench/bunk/cot was inspired by childhood memories of racially demarcated park benches marked ‘whites only’ in South Africa. Similarly park benches in Nazi Germany were marked ‘Nurfurarier’ (Aryans only). The two levels have been finished with different surfaces. The upper surface has a lattice of stretched barbed wire and the lower a grid of leather thongs. The leather thongs on a couch or chair refer to the old slave furniture of the Cape before emancipation, now much sought after as collectable and valued Afrikaner relics of the past. The barbed wire surface on the upper bunk has no comforting appeal and refers to the method of physically maintaining incarceration of individuals used extensively in concentration camps, in both South Africa during the second Boer War and in Nazi occupied Europe during the Second World War. Two cushions fashioned from concentration (KZ) camp-like fabric (with yellow backing) are located on the lower level bench/ bunk/cot and are seen through the barbed wire above.
Strong signifiers create a Holocaust effect and specific references to the extermination of the Jews are a confronting reminder. While well designed and solidly constructed, there is a repellent and repulsive quality which is compounded by the invitation to the apparent comfort offered by the two cushions. Purposefully disguising the impact of the fatal reality of incarceration paralleled the use of euphemisms adorning the entrance to KZ camps, such as ‘Arbeit Macht Fre’i (Work Sets you Free) and ‘Jedem Das Seine’ (Each to their Own). The real cushions are equally misleading and deliberately confusing provocations.
In formal terms modernist grids abound, in layers and projected shadows, but the whole is intentionally steeped in invoking a sense of the real.