Krieg Spielen means “playing war” in German. With this series of sculptures and installations, I am going back to my own childhood games, turning the living room into a battle field for my toy soldiers, the wardrobe into a bombed out ruin and the couch into a muddy trench. I believe that most little boys play war as they grow up, and many, many older boys continue much later on to revel in the same fantasies, but then in the form of entertainment and games.
Krieg Spielen, 2011, approx dimensions installation : L4m x W3m x H2m, figures: H40cm, found furniture, wood, carpet, ceramic figures, cast tin weapons, textiles, leather.
One of the adult worlds I latch onto with these sculptures and installations, is the world of model making. The extreme care and patience necessary to craft a perfectly blown-up bridge fascinates me, not just technically but above all conceptually and psychologically.
Another is the world of religious mythology, with all its images of bravery and sacrifice. My goal is not to equate the ideal of the fearless soldier with that of the heroic saint, but much more to build up a clash of mythologies in the way young boys do, happily adding and mixing all the things from the outside world that they don’t really understand into a new narrative of their own making. But we should not fool ourselves: the unintended poetry of naive play can often say more than well intentioned and considered sermons.
Keeping Faith Alive, 2013, L90cm x W60cm x H85cm, oak cross, cast tin and carved lime figures.
The young soldier as a sacrificial lamb, giving his blood to redeem the sins of a nation.
I modelled the running soldiers after photos of Vietnam stretcher bearers that I found on the web. The wounded Christ figure is inspired by medieval and renaissance folk-religious carving. My goal in setting up such contrasts, is to suggest a new reading or other possible world in peoples’ minds, without necessarily telling them what I think about it.
Partisan Passion, 2014, L80cm x W70cm x H105cm, oak flooring, steel pipe, cast zinc, glass, candles, rope, ceramic figures.
Inspired to continue on the religious theme, I created another metaphoric Christ, but this one to be exhibited together with the original installation Krieg Spielen. I simply took the symbol of the cross for what it from the beginning was, and moved it into the forties, where the role of the sacrificed youth was best held by the many partisans and resistance fighters, giving their lives without even having been conscripted into an army.
I let the American GI stand in for the silent witness, who see and understand the magnitude of the sacrifice, but who came too late to stop it.
Collateral Justice, 2014, L72cm x W54cm x H96cm, found objects, wood, cast zinc, epoxy, ceramics.
I often use found objects in my sculptures. I built up Collateral Justice around an old toy truck that a good friend gave me, and a plastic Madonna that I had found on eBay. This sculpture is actually a beautiful example of all the ways you can use found objects. To make the truck more suit my vision, I gave it an engine, some spokes and levers, and a boar’s head cast in zinc. These parts I modelled myself in wax first, adding my own touch to the truck.
The Madonna was originally standing up, and she was of course holding a baby Jesus. To change her into Lady Justice, I had to remove Our Lord, sit her down, and also endow her with the attributes of blind jurisprudence. All these metal parts as well as her changed position, I had to carefully model, which shows that time saving is not the reason for using found materials. I even had to change the dingy little side table I placed the whole caravan on, by giving it a slope and by adding muddy wheel tracks and some puddles.
The most interesting way of using found materials, however, at least in my opinion, is present in the shape of the collateral on the flat bed. The dead girls are hand made in ceramics and then painted, but their shapes I got from a Barbie doll. I made a slip cast mould of her front, and could then reproduce her basic resemblance, with imperfections and damages stemming from the softness of the clay emerging from the hard plaster mould. Individual modelling then gave them personality.
Another way of using found materials that I like, is to reuse my own sculptures for new work. Sometimes, the best ideas only come to me when I look at my own finished work exhibited in a gallery. It is not that I want to change some details afterwards, which I think happens to most artists from time to time, no, I can get an entirely new vision of how to give a part of the work a completely new life. In this case I appropriated the leather armchair with the American GI peeing against its back from my own installation Krieg Spielen, and used it as the base for a new sculpture.
The other element in this sculpture that looks found, the armchair, is in reality created entirely from new. It just seems to be an old armchair re-modelled into a ruined brick wall. The GIs are inspired by the plastic heroes I used to play with as a child, but without the constant fighting, throwing and shooting. In my adult imagination, they do things that real soldiers spend much more time doing, like getting lost, relieving themselves, or waiting.
But just as in my childhood games, the Indians are the eternal antagonists of the American soldier, no matter what era he stems from. In preparing their ambush, these insurgents are armed just as on TV, probably motivated by similar feelings, and to the GI, just as exotic then as now.
GIs and Indians, 2014, L110cm x W75cm x H140cm, wood, leather, rivets, ceramic figures and cast tin weapons. Figures are approx 40cm heigh.