No concrete truth in new Four Plinths Project
The latest sculptural installation in Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Four Plinths Project plays with notions of misinformation, as well as mistakes that can be made in the retelling of stories and histories.
“Behold Oz” is the title of the project by Dunedin School of Art Honours student Zac Whiteside, whose work was officially opened at Otago Polytechnic on Wednesday, 10 May.
Located in the quad at Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin Campus, “Behold Oz” is the fourth iteration of the Four Plinths Project, which provides an opportunity for graduates from the Dunedin School of Art to have their work shown in a public setting.
“For this installation my idea was to create components of a statue, including a head that appears to resemble a giant concrete bust of Nicolas Cage; as well as a giant thumb, an elbow crease, and two trunkless legs,” Whiteside says.
“Each is from a different statue but, because they are displayed together, the assumption is that they represent the remains of a single work.”
The sculptures are made out of concrete, to which Whiteside has applied a range of ageing techniques to suggest they are, in fact, old ruins.
The installation also features a short explanation of where the pieces were “found”, crediting the archaeologist who discovered them, as if this isn't an art installation but actual ruins excavated by Whiteside and team.
Whiteside says he was inspired by the Percy Shelley poem, “Ozymandias” in which Shelley discusses a traveller who told him of the ruins of a once great statue.
“The poem is a rather amusing commentary on power and legacy, Ozymandias’ words losing their potency to time and now read as irony.
“My work may involve some critical thinking to realise none of the pieces actually fit with each other, and that it’s not serious,” says Whiteside who, having graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the end of 2022, is completing Honours this year.
“I hope the work speaks to how susceptible we are to misinformation. Despite being presented with a fake story, the viewer might require a second look to realise if it is, indeed, a ruse.
“The work also comments on society in the same way Shelley’s poem does, pointing out that many great civilisations have crumbled before and that we are not immune to that.
“What if an asteroid hit one of our cities? How would the people of the future read our histories? Would they think we worshipped celebrities, kings and queens? All of this raises another question: what histories are currently being misconstrued?”
“Behold Oz” replaces Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate Dillon Gamble’s “Crossroads; Childish Adult Stuff”. Other works in the Four Plinths Project include Richard Budd’s “Four Daves”, which was preceded by Jenny Hjertquist's ”Four Quarters of the World”.
Published on 11 May 2023