Whiskey riverPosted: January 23, 2012
This shimmering textile sculpture, is actually thousands of metal whiskey labels that the African artist, El Anatsui, has painstakingly “sewn” together bit by bit with copper wire into a quilt of shining color.
These pieces are monumental in scale; one was even draped over a building facade. The sheer magnetism of the metal tapestry draws you to study the intricacy of its construction. It’s then that the power of the “weaving” hits you. Like the rich colors playing with the light, I think of many things.
- The painstaking and creative construction. This is a humble piece of trash here. Folded, twisted, made into rectangles, squares, circles and joined together by hand, one by one.
- The enormous number of labels. Soooo many of these liquor bottle labels, the ubiquity of them, suggests the people in Ghana and Africa, are drinking a lot of whiskey.
- The labels are in English, not African languages, so this whisky is imported from abroad and whispers of imperialism and the immense sadness it has wrought on Africa. However this grief sounds more like a deep throb in the heart of this piece rather than a shout of anger.
- This “trash” is transformed. The sum, greater than its parts. We are all part of this cloth. Each one, a piece in a shining whole. The inter-connectedness of us all. The power and diversity of the African spirit / human spirit – a glittering tapestry (despite the drunken folly).
The light plays with the waves and folds in the metal cloth and mesmerizes you. They drape and change with each installation, giving it new life. The light reflects and scatters into a thousand mirrors. I imagine it taking a mystical quality like a magic carpet or a waving banner of hope.