A short history of the 20th Century

ART FIRST, London, February 2 – March 11, 2011.

For some time now I’ve been collecting random dates - day, month and year - from the twentieth century and painting them in gold in the original typography of the various source documents. Recently, after looking back through my copy of Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991’ , I had the doomed-to-failure idea of incorporating these works into an exhibition that addresses the history of those times.

In 'The Century' (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007) the French philosopher Alain Badiou characterizes the twentieth century as fatally marked by ‘the passion for the real’ - by a suspicious obsession with identity, unmasking copies, discrediting fakes, and identifying the authentic. Along with inevitable rages of destruction also came the will to subtraction and purification, and Badiou speaks of Kasimir Malevitch's ‘White on White’ painting as the epitome of this process.







Perhaps my monochromes, stained by various twentieth century text-fragments - by unimportant dates, signatures of dictators and ‘good guys’, book covers of twentieth century history books, my censored, cancelled, erased, or aestheticized paragraphs of text from the first page of each chapter of Hobsbawm’s book itself, and my watercolours using words culled from the list of illustrations and painted in a trompe d’oeil effect with bits of dead flora, are meditations on this ‘passion’.

The dead flora comes from South Korea, where I am living at the moment, and it’s not such an unlikely place from where to think about the last century. For here, on this Far Eastern peninsula, the twentieth century lives on as a potentially lethal relic through the ideological confrontation of North and South.

The watercolours are 56x77mm unframed.