The artworks and actions in the series “I’ll fight you just to get peace” were initially conceived in response to Mel Ziegler’s temporary exhibition “Flag Exchange” at the Walter and McBean galleries at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ziegler’s exhibition had two components: the first was the hanging of fifty salvaged American flags from the gallery’s ceiling, and the second was called “A Living Thing,” an open call to the community to use the exhibition space as a platform for discussion, performance, or acts of resistance or protest. Ziegler’s exhibition took place during a tense political moment. It occurred around President Trump’s inauguration, and many issues I address in my work were in the forefront of the national debate: the psychology of the citizen, and the physical manifestations of the nation state. Things like President Trump’s proposed wall between Mexico and the U.S. became symbols of increasing xenophobia, and I looked at the gallery walls as a site for intervention.
For my contribution to “A Living Thing,” I installed a two-part sculptural intervention inside and outside the gallery space. Inside the gallery, I sawed and removed a square patch of wall, revealing the architectural structure behind. In that void, I embedded a large steel plate engraved with text. This text was the digital translation of lyrics by the Sri Lankan musician MIA: “I’ll fight you just to get peace.” Working with a programmer, I converted MIA’s paradoxical phrase into C++, a programming language considered to be close to the binary language of computers. In C++, the MIA lyrics state the impossibility of peace. Outside, I hung an identically sized steel plate with the same text on a mural of U.S. navy camouflage pattern. Inside the gallery, the C++ text was engraved “backwards,” right to left, and outside the gallery, the text read from left to right, creating an inverse, mirrored relationship between the plates.
I'll fight you just to get peace (Rapper M.I.A."Bucky Done Gun”), 2017
Two 4 x 4' steel plates, CNC plasma cut computer code, and paint
Interior work: 52 x 52” wall removal, 48 x 48” steel plate
Exterior work: 7.5 x 50’ mural, 52 x 52” steel plate
After three weeks, I “buried” the plate that was inside the gallery wall. With help from local museum wall contractors, who patched up the gallery wall so that no trace of the intervention could be seen. Like a time capsule, the plate may be “discovered” at a later date. I then used the portion of wall that I had initially cut out to mount the exterior steel plate. I combined this second steel plate with the wall fragment, and made it into a freestanding sculpture.
I considered the steel plates as a diptych on the interplay between the visible and the invisible aspects of political power. The C++ code, the camouflage pattern, and the “burial” of the interior plate suggest an abstract or hidden level of thinking that produces real military and political ramifications.
The physical remnants from the interior removal will be used to construct a free standing sculpture as an extension of this work. Conceptually, it is protecting the idea of the initial installation ““I'll fight you just to get peace” and embedding this idea within a layered history. The removed gallery wall is charged with the history of its removal from the gallery, which was infused with protections from the institution. Both physically and conceptually my work embraces this idea of protection of our human experience within institution and political contexts.
How To Protect A Level Five Gallery Wall, 2017
Dry wall, wood panel, paint, blue tape, two CNC plasma cut 4’x4’ steel plates and a steel stand.
H53” x W52” x D24”