contemporary art, war art

Mariele Neudecker, Psychopomp (Hercules Missile Graphite Rubbings 1&2) (2010/11)

May 25, 2013

Under normal circumstances the end of a world war might be cause for reflection. And indeed, each November we have institutionalised mourning at an almost mandatory level.

But the cold war is different. Lives were only lost in countries the US and the USSR should never have been in. Remote peoples were armed and set against one another.

Now we reap what we sowed. Were it a just war, museums like the Nike Historic Missile Site in California might be as affecting as a trip to landing beach in Normandy.

The Hercules Missile system was intended as a line of defence against Soviet bombers. It became obsolete as both powers came to rely on ICBMs.

Now it is so obsolete they allow artists to climb all over the deactivated stock, for the making of graphite rubbings or whatever else it is that artists do.

Neudecker has engaged with every inch of this 41ft behemoth. The full incarnation of this work would not even fit in the downtown Brighton gallery.

Straddling the missiles like a peacetime Dr Strangelove, she renders cold hard steel in a manic, performative, durational scribble.

Keen eyed defence strategists will realise there are two Hercules on display. One light, one dark. Neudecker leaves us to guess which was the real thing, which a military decoy.

Does the lighter missile represent a tentative fear, an explosive potential which mustn’t be disturbed? Or does the darker missile indicate a deeper, more passionate engagement with the real thing?

Either way, this is close as you’d want to get. Neudecker’s piece is evidence relating to last night’s nightmare. The East-West standoff, the three minute warnings, the paranoia . . . It happened all along.

This piece can be seen in The Air Itself is One Vast Library at Lighthouse Arts, Brighton. See galllery website for more details.

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