History is made of different shades of grey

KEVIN VAN BRAAK // History is made of different shades of grey // April 8 – April 30, 2011 // PROMETEOGALLERY DI IDA PISANI //

Kevin van Braak reconstructed four office desks of controversial former world leaders – Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Nixon – and the world globe that Hitler had in his office in the Reichskanzlei (the Reich Chancellery).

The desks and the globe are detailed, but are not exact copies. They have the original proportions, but are realized in a different material. The desks are coated in polyurea, which gives them a thick, grey rubber-like layer. It creates a unifying effect. Though the desks carry all the original details, these details are pushed into the background because of the uniform colour and coating. In that way, the desks act more as sculptures than as functional objects. Placed together in one room the exhibition has a height of 78 centimetres, which enhances even more a neutralizing effect. Yet, to neutralize what happened at these desks is not Van Braak’s intention. On the contrary, because of their similar outlook the history that was literally written at these desks comes strongly to the fore. Not in a literal sense or in a direct line with history. The new appearance of these historical objects makes that they resist being literally inscribed with decisions of life and death of millions of people, signed on these desks by their owners. Still, you cannot get rid of associating the thing with the harsh reality its original supported and the bitter imprint it leaves behind. For sure, the lumpy coating layer does not cover up the gruesome effects of some of the decisions made on these desks. It makes the lead globe on his steel support in the other room even heavier. Van Braak made this Columbus Grossglobus für Staats- und Wirtschaftsführer (Columbus’ Big Globe for World- and Economic Leaders) out of lead. Although it is immediately recognized as a globe, there are no countries visible on it. It evokes a story about Hitler having a small globe on his desk on which all the countries in the world were shown in one grey shade and over them was written ‘Deutschland’ (Germany).

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