Please note; this section reads chronologically backwards. The beginning is at the end. It is like excavating the past of something I did. I hope it remains as something of minor interest.
This video was made by Italo Rossi and has now made its way on to YouTube. More that fifteen minutes long! I feel quite sad that one more year has passed. And the Red Maze is long gone. Perhaps one day I will make another maze. I hope so.
- 31st January, 2011
The evisceration of the Maze.
- 18th March 2010
GOODBYE RED MAZE
So, we built the maze in January, in a museum in Holland. It was made from discarded timber, corrugated iron, old shutters, windows and doors. It was about three hundred metres long, if you were to straighten it out. We painted it red. The Red Maze. We hung a lot of my artwork in it. We opened the maze in a theatrical manner, with a Red Man telling tall stories of labyrinths and monsters, and questions and answers; we had a party, with food and drink, with a lot of people. It was snowing outside.
Six weeks passed, and they passed like nothing. I had gone home, all the way to England. Then I went back to the Red Maze; because the Red Maze was going to be looted. I had decided to try to get people to think about the fragility of cultural ettiquette, and about how delicate and precious culture is. I had decided to try to get people to understand this concept by allowing them to loot my exhibition.
Funny enough, I wanted to keep hold of my paintings. So we took them down. I wanted to keep hold of a whole lot of stuff, in the end. So we took that down too. And working very fast, we made another exhibition. I had printed hundreds of posters of artwork I had done, some of which had been seen in public places before, but most of which had never been seen before (except by me). We worked late into the night with stapleguns and wallpaper paste. Eventually we had made a new exhibition. It was about to be the shortest exhibition in the world.
The next morning, the morning of the Looting, Sunday morning, I woke up early, and went for a walk. I was confused about what I was about to do. I was about to let anyone who wanted to come to the exhibition... well, basically, destroy it. I felt bafflement, indecision, ambivalence, anxiety, fear, discombobulation, regret, panic, worry, doubt, concern and trepidation. I also felt a great many emotions I did not have words for.
It had been Saturday night the night before. Everywhere in the town were splatters of vomit from the night before, mostly next to benches where the drunk people had sat down and then thrown up. I sat on a bench and looked down into some vomit. I had the urge to disappear. But it was too late now. Too late.
When the Looting had started I was almost too scared to go and see what it looked like, but really, I had to. When else could I see something like that? But what I noticed first was the sound. Down there in the Red Maze was the rasp and chirr of paper being pulled from walls, the ripping and tearing, and the unusual excited murmuring sound of many people still not entirely sure that they were getting something for nothing. Well, almost nothing. The Looters had been told that they really should put some money in a box; I was collecting for charity, you see; a charity that tried to undo the damage done by looting. The irony was only just becoming apparent to me at this very late stage.
The speed with which the Looting was being undertaken was quite extraordinary. The exhibition was being eviscerated like a bullock in an assembly-line slaughterhouse. Suddenly there was the sound of powertools, a creak and screeech as the structure of the Red Maze was attacked. The whine of machinery seemed to hasten the work of the Looters, to spur them on to greater feats of audacity. I was feeling something like elation.
I went back upstairs. Although the Looting had been a definite success, I felt uneasy. Effectively, I had sanctioned vandalism on a large scale, vandalism of my own work. The sight of the Red Maze sundered, split at the seams, sawn up and carted away, of torn posters, corners still stubbornly adhering to the walls; it was almost too much to bear. I had worked for days to create the Red Maze, and now I had stood by, grinning, whilst it had been devastated. I had no idea how I should be feeling. More accurately, I was certainly feeling something, but I had no idea what it was or what to call it.
It is much quicker to destroy than to create; much faster to pull down than to put up. It had taken thirteen hours to paste and staple up this second exhibition in the Red Maze. The Red Maze itself had taken seven days to build and paint red. It took less than 45 minutes for it to be comprehensively looted.
- 15th March 2010
GOODBYE PRINTING PRESS
It's a little sad, this. But if you listen to it, you can hear that the mices are coming.
- 13th March 2010
THE LOOTING OF THE RED MAZE:
THE LOOTING WILL TAKE PLACE BETWEEN 1PM AND 4PM SUNDAY, 14TH MARCH 2010
IMPLEMENTS OF DESTRUCTION WILL BE PROVIDED
'Red Maze' by Stanley Donwood will be in its final day. Many of the exhibits will already be gone. However, that which remains is there for the taking.
Schunck* invites you to plunder the Red Maze.
The Looting of the Red Maze, at Schunck* in Heerlen, Holland, on 14th March 2010.
We are extremely fortunate to live in a calm, quiet corner of Europe during a prolonged period of peace and stability. This, it must be emphasized, is unusual.
Our civilisation is a fragile edifice, susceptible to sudden collapse. Museums, galleries and libraries, our repositories of knowledge and culture are especially vulnerable in times of conflict and transition. War is about killing culture as much as it is about killing people; it is not just licensed murder but also licensed vandalism, and there is a direct connection between the annihilation of a culture and the mass killing of human beings.
The looting of culture is the killing of identity and memory, the scattering of shared knowledge, the destruction of records and the demolition of diversity. A library is a cache of historical memory, an art gallery is evidence that a community's presence extends into the past from the present, and on into the future. A mosque or synagogue, a church or a school means, to its enemies, a symbol of a culture that is marked for erasure. This is not, and is never 'collateral damage'.
The link between the destruction of collective memory and the killing of human beings is undeniable. The repugnant phrase 'ethnic cleansing' finds its twin in the equally horrifying 'cultural cleansing'.
From Armenia to Russia, from the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Iraq, the urge to destroy has resulted not just in the tragedy of individual death but, equally importantly the annihilation of memory.
On the 14th of March 2010 the basement of Schunck*, the multi-disciplinary house of culture based in the Glaspaleis in the centre of Heerlen, Holland, will open its doors to looters.
The current exhibition, 'Red Maze', by Stanley Donwood, will be in its final day. Many of the exhibits will already be gone, spirited away to a 'safe place'. However, that which remains is there for the taking.
Schunck* invites you to plunder the Red Maze.
Unlike any previous looter, however, you will be asked to make a financial donation to the Centre For International Heritage Activities, an organisation which is involved in a project to rebuild the National Museum of Kabul, which was looted by the Taliban in 2001.
I leave you with one image; a Sarajevo librarian, watching the National Library go up in flames. The air is filled with black fragments from books, carbonised texts legible for a moment in eerie negative, before turning to dust in his hands.
The Destruction of Memory - Robert Bevan, Reaktion Books, 2006 The Rape of Mesopotamia - Lawrence Rothfield, University of Chicage Press, 2009
- 3rd March 2010
A FEW MORE, AND SOMETHING I FOUND
I've been going through photographs sent to me by Perry Schrijvers, who took many pictures of the show. Here are some of them...
Serving the goats their champagne.
Lurking by the fire exit.
Inhalers I've collected over a few years.
The Red Man, on a cold afternoon.
Now for something completely different:
- 17th February 2010
RED MAZE VIDEO
This was filmed before the show opened, but after I had smoked a load of cigars. They were for the goat room, not for fun. Cigars are bad, kids.
Most things are in place, apart from a few cupboard doors and the asthma inhaler exhibit.
- 11th February 2010
MORE RED MAZE
More photos arriving, reminding me that I failed to take very many. Many more to come, when I get it together to post them up here.
Cupboard at childrens' height.
Goats in the boardroom.
The Red Man, out in town...
- 8th February 2010
So, the RED MAZE show is made and is open until 14th March at Schunck in Heerlen, in Holland. It's almost exactly as I envisaged it (see entry below). It is a labyrinthine construction, making up about 300 metres of corridors and rooms in a large basement area below Schunck, which itself is a beautiful glass building housing what could be termed a multi-disciplinary cultural centre. Or something. Here are some pictures...
BLAH BLAH BLAH
Hunched over a soon-to-be-obsolete keyboard, tapping, clicking the endangered mouse, inspecting the contents of CDs, battered hard drives, Zip discs, Jaz discs, SyQuest cartridges... that's where I've been, in my attic; when not painting twigs in the refrigerator I laughingly refer to as my studio. I haven't been sorting through this ancient (5 - 10 years old...) beige technology for no reason; I've been writing a book. It's going to be called 'Red Maze', to accompany an exhibition I'm going to do in Heerlen, Holland early in 2010. The book will be a big book because the exhibition will be a big exhibition. If you're at all interested, here's some of the text I did for the 'proposal' for the exhibition:
From several points within Heerlen begins a red line; a painted representation of the red thread given by Ariadne to Theseus, the thread that enables him to find his way to the heart of the Minoan maze, slay the Minotaur and make his escape.
This red thread leads to Schunk, down to the cellar. Whether the thread-follower takes the stairs or the lift down, there they are confronted by a twenty-metre length of dilapidated red wall, a wall constructed from corrugated iron, reclaimed plywood, old doors that do not open; the sort of wall that is hastily erected around a scrapyard. Several entranceways loom darkly from the wall, beckoning the visitor into the Red Maze. Something that the above image does not show is the fact that pasted to the red wall are many printed images; they show fragments of mysterious pictures, or large wood-block printed words, such as VIRUS, SLOTH, GREED, VIDEO, DUSK, ULTRA, READY, BINGE and many more.
Overall there is a sense of something impending, an intimation of dread.
What the Red Maze represents, in part at least, is the disorder and confusion of the human mind. There appears to be no logical reason or order here, but in fact the construction and the embellishments are all carefully considered and do make perfect sense; if only to their creator. An inspiration for the Red Maze is the imaginary prisons that Piranesi returned to repeatedly in his etchings. The alchemical power of the maze or labyrinth to transform the familiar to the unfamilar is obvious: the materials used are normal, a hedge, a wall, a fence... but the disorientation produced by the repetition of these surfaces is profound and deeply unsettling. Piranesi's use of the architectural features he was proficient at in his prisons added to their power.
Another element that will feature in the Red Maze is the figure of the Minotaur. Unlike the representations of the monster in myth, the Minotaur of the Red Maze is a sad creature. Briefly, the myth of the Minotaur is as follows: When he became King of Crete, Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull to seal his position as king. Minos was supposed to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon, but kept it instead. As punishment, Poseidon made Pasiphae, Minos's wife, fall in love and lust with the bull. She had Daedalus (father of Icarus) create a 'cow-hide' for her, that she could crawl into and the bull would fuck. This went to plan, and Pasiphae gave birth to the Minotaur, a man with the head of a bull. Incarcerated in the labyrinth which King Minos commissioned Daedalus to design, the child born of Pasiphae and the snow-white bull grows to maturity. Every seven years seven youths and seven maidens are sent as tribute from Athens; once in Crete they are imprisoned in the maze, where, one by one, they are devoured by the Minotaur. This continues until Theseus is sent as part of the tribute; the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, falls in love with Theseus, and gives him a ball of red thread so he can find his way out of the maze after killing the Minotaur.
The figure that haunts the Red Maze is a crying minotaur, a monster aware of his fate, conscious of his isolation, his own imprisonment and of the abhorrence and fear he causes to all who see him. His form appears again and again on the walls of the Red Maze.
Anyway, this explains the look of the maze. The general impression is one of creative dereliction; the walls of the Red Maze are constructed from disharmonious and decayed/rusted materials salvaged from probably several past uses, but are made coherent by a single paint colour, the repetition of pasted images, and various signifiers such as the minotaur and the bear. These pasted images number in the hundreds. As well as the single-word prints there are many others.
One of the things the Red Maze will not do is display commercial art with the veneration often accorded to it. Much of my work has been involved with the packaging of records; essentially this reduces down to a brightly-coloured (or otherwise) wrapping for a product. However I may feel about the artwork, this is what it is - a form of advertising. As such, the actual products that will feature in the show, the record covers, CD covers, and so on, will be visible through old windows that form part of the wall construction. The windows will be quite dirty, smeared with grime, but the window displays inside will be pristine, prepared with the care that is usually given to such things.
The windows are vaguely reminiscent of sweet-shop windows, peered into on a darkening evening.
Another way in which a window is used is as a viewing portal into a closed room: the room of the goats. This window is actually the top half of a glazed door, like a French window. The door has a handle, but cannot be opened. There are other non-opening doors which are part of the corridor walls, but this is the only one which can be seen through.
This room of the goats measures 9m x 2m, and cannot be entered. The room is completely filled, wall to wall, with a table. The top surface of this table is finished to look like a boardroom table; some sort of mahogany effect. The table is littered with financial newspapers and magazines, an international selection, as well as piles of paper money. There are 10 120cm x 80cm paintings of goats in on the walls around the table here, and at the head of the table is the stuffed head of a mountain goat, covered with dripping paint and nailed to a dartboard. The walls of this room are covered with dripping paint. All of the rooms in the Red Maze have more than one entrance/exit, apart from the room of the goats.
If the visitor is hasty it's perfectly possible to miss sections of the maze. The whole Red Maze feels very enclosed; making the visitor feel almost claustrophobic. The only natural light during the day will be through the skylight that goes up to the vitrine at the front of Schunck.
One last element of the Red Maze is its final destruction. There will be two endings; the first, 'official' ending, after which all of the exhibits within the maze - all paintings, framed items, products etc - will be removed. The maze will then be a shell, with all the pasted-up printed papers remaining. At this point the maze will be looted, in common with many unfortunate museums and galleries; most recently Baghdad's museums. Visitors can enter the Red Maze and are permitted to take anything they like. This process will be filmed, and the resulting footage projected across the square at night; in silence, in solemn black and white.
- 26th November 2010