Masks and costumes, mostly copied from collections in European ethnographic museums, are reproduced by weaving together plastic bags. The masks are held up by wooden stands made from sections of a recreation of the iconic modernist Rietveld chair. The interwoven associations create a material and associative dialogue between European modernisation and its on-going impact on other cultures. The work suggests that in facing 500 years of history, Modernism has to come to terms with the legacies, and failures, of its colonial past. A further layer to the work finds analogies between the bags that transport items from one state to the next – store to home – and the masks which are now objects adrift but once used in rites of passage, from one state to the next-boyhood to man, life to death.
“It is finally time for the role that the primitive has played to come front and center and take its place in the accepted ranks of contributors to modernism’s innovations.”
quoted from Sieglinde Lemke’s Primitivist Modernism, Black Culture and the Origins of Transatlantic Modernism, 1998
The 500 years exhibition included three interrelated bodies of work that take the lifespan of a plastic bag as a historical period. Instead of looking forward, however, it looks back to link a period of history that has defined the contemporary age, from the earliest colonisation of Latin America, the Renaissance in Europe and the subsequent modernisation, industrialisation and globalization that pervade contemporary life.