Tower of Babel


image gallery

Questions and Obsessions

A review of Benjamin King's work from the recent group exhibition at the Moray Gallery. Artists participating in the exhibition include: Benjamin King, Saskia Nickless and Michael Twaddle.

Moray Gallery, Dunedin
1 - 21 August 2009


As I entered the gallery, the thing that first struck me was the alien appearance of Benjamin’s sculpture. An ‘Ark’ and a ‘Tower of Babel’ have been intensely crafted with acute attention to detail. These works are curious and designed to be eye-catching. They pose questions. What is their purpose? Why are they here? The ‘Tower of Babel’ is constructed as a sandcastle. It is set on sand, and surrounded by scaffolding suggesting continuance. The artist says this will always be a work in progress.

When dealing with the concept of grace it is difficult to ground it in something solid and explain it. Benjamin intends just this with his ‘Ark’. Solidly pieced together on one side and proofed against the weather, it is exposed to all elements on the other. The inside is faithfully reconstructed, complete with cages.
It did not make me feel comfortable, because it was devoid of life. A few indicators of habitation were apparent, such as barrels...but at this stage it remains mysterious, stationary and empty. The artist is treating the ‘Ark’ as a body, and says that the finished, protected side represents the choice of eternal life, while the exposed side represents death. A brass plaque is fitted to the back of the ark, with ‘Grace’ written on it.

As this is in a contemporary gallery, I have to wonder— who is the target audience? My feeling is that a Christian audience would be able to make connections more successfully than one that is secular.
To me it asks: what side of the boat are you on? And simply says that, without grace, we are sunk.

As I leave, a refrain from a Carpenters’ song pops into my head ‘Calling occupants to interplanetary, quite extraordinary craft...'.


Reviewed and written by Kathryn Taiaroa


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