Freedom to lead, freedom of speech, freedom to create, the freedom to believe, freedom of choice. The word freedom itself is incredibly loaded in its multivalency, carrying different connotations within different contexts. Yet wheresoever was anyone ever truly free?
As dreams are the issue of the unconscious, ideology is the issue of society and the organising apparatus that shapes our lives. Paul Sloan's work for 'New New' explores and challenges ideas of freedom in relation to history. Operating from the premise that ideology has a material existence, the artist turns our attention towards once potent totems of cultural figureheads. These statues inhabit our public spaces like quiet sleepers: they are decaying symbols of colonial portent, emptied out of the meaning that was once invested in them. At once re-animated and problematized by the artist, how are we to view these objects now? How do we understand ourselves in relation to these objects of a colonial past? What colonises us now?
Similarly, images or snapshots of uprising and revolt present points at which political structures have been ruptured. These images remind us that just as historical narratives have a mirage-like illusory nature, democracy creates the illusion that all people are equal and hold equal power. Here the artist addresses dormant and overt realities within the dreams of 'freedom' and 'history.' He wrestles with the idea that while all culture carries with it the promise of liberation, it does so bearing the scars of the suffering that was part of its making.
Afterall, "there is no cultural document that is not at the same time a record of barbarism." - Walter Benjamin.
Source: Jenna McKenzie. The NEW NEW Catalogue, CACSA. 2010.
'Arise Therefore' was commissioned for CACSA's 2010 survey of contemporary South Australian artists, entitled The NEW NEW; curated by Alan Cruickshank and Peter McKay.