While in Vienna, I had the opportunity to visit the Leopold Museum, housed in none other than the Museums Quartiers.
There were several exhibits being displayed within the walls of this beautifully curated space. For the purpose of this post though, I’d like to focus my attention (and yours) on an exhibit entitled: “And Yet There was Art!”
WWI, instigated by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, is commemorated by the Leopold Museum 100 years later, by exhibiting the work of Austrian artists who were active between 1914 and 1918; hence the appropriateness of the exhibition title.
The museum also exhibits a few works created after “the war to end all wars” that reflect on the theme of war and its atrocities.This may be due to a curatorial decision to allow visitors to reflect on the above statement, knowing full well that WWI was indeed never to end wars but may be even begin others causing a domino effect as far as 100 years later where our world has gone mad and conflicts are continuously raging in all corners of the globe!
There were many pieces in this gallery space to be admired when I visited. However, the piece that caught my attention was titled “Carpet”, by contemporary artist Veronika Dreier.
To be very honest, when I first walked into the gallery I took a brief look at “Carpet” from a distance and didn’t really give it much thought or a second glance. This was a big mistake on my part! As I was leaving the space though, I realized there were about six or seven other guests who cared to take a second, third and fourth look. I couldn’t help but be intrigued after seeing many visitors crouching down on the ground with their cheeks and noses almost on the floor scrutinizing at this piece. So what did I do? I crouched down with them and marveled! Talking to myself as I did (I’m grateful I wasn’t the only one though!) Here is what I saw:
From a distance, it gives the illusion of a large-scale camouflage rag rug. When in fact, “Carpet”, conceptualised in 1994, is made entirely; believe it or not; by the very careful and deliberate placement of thousands of grey, light and dark green plastic soldiers! After realizing Dreier’s feat, I spent quite a bit of time with this piece considering material choices and their placement. The artist clearly wanted the viewer to experience quite a shock upon discovering the medium used to create this piece. This goal was evidently achieved. Yet, there is a much greater connotation behind the process of creation here.
Upon closer scrutiny of the piece, I could distinguish different groups of soldiers battling against one another. Rather than having the toys facing one direction; say in a march; or haphazardly placed beside one another, the artist created battle scenes on the battlefield of a “rug” with the different coloured soldiers placed against one another. I’d like to think that Veronika Dreier put together her carpet using children’s toys to reinforce the idea that some see war as if it were nothing but a game. It is nothing more than grown men holding grudges and competing at who is best at something by playing with bombs and other artillery, while using other men with little choice in the matter. The soldiers are their toys or bate and civilians are just part of their playground. The high and mighty bully of the land calls the shots while others suffer the consequences.